Health professionals, the world over, will tell you how important to health and work performance getting enough sleep is. There have been countless studies and it is an accepted fact that not getting enough sleep leads to degraded performance in everything you do, a shutting down of your creative and imaginative powers and a general decline in your health and well-being. Sleep is very, very important.
In the real world, however, legions of part time artists cut into their sleep in order to create. They work day jobs and commute, which takes up most of their waking hours. They do this to earn a living and give them the money they need to pursue their creative interests. Feeling a pressing need to be creative and to build a life not completely centred around their work (a healthy thing to do, from a stress reduction point of view and also a good way to insulate yourself from the pain and devastation that the loss of your job can bring), artists of all kinds work late into the night, stealing their sleep hours, so that they can produce something that pleases them, all of their own, which asserts their creative and artistic identities. No boss. No orders. Just the pure bliss of conceiving of an idea and realising it.
The trouble is: you cannot live without enough sleep indefinitely. The loss of sleep will soon make it nearly impossible to continue to perform adequately, in your day job. It will also affect the art you are trying to create by moonlight. Pretty soon, both your work products and art works will begin to suffer. You will feel terrible constantly and fight with fatigue, all the time that you are not actually asleep. That’s a terrible tread mill to be on.
It turns out that if you can protect your sleep hours as sacrosanct and actually achieve a good quality of sleep (letting go of the frustration of not creating something), then your art improves, your state of mind and well-being improves and your work performance goes back to being satisfactory. Yes, you might still be burning the candle at both ends and not creating as much art as you would like, but you are less dogged by ill health and don’t have to fear employment performance reviews quite so much. You rediscover your muse, inspiration, imagination and creativity. Experimentation comes more easily. Your art is much better.
The balance is upset when you have a day job that is highly stressful, where the boss is a madman or where overtime is expected, donated from personal time usually. Then, it becomes virtually impossible to rest and get a good quality of sleep, irrespective of the actual hours spent in bed and you lose the chance to create your moonlight artworks completely. You are robbed of the opportunity to create any art worth a damn at all. What could such a situation possibly be telling you?
Maybe it’s telling you you’re in the wrong job or commuting too far. Maybe you should get a different job, work less hours or concentrate more seriously on your art, perhaps even to the extent of pursuing it professionally, as your main occupation. If you find you are driven to create, that’s not an incidental thing. That’s a vitally important message from your inner self, telling you that in order to thrive, as a human being, you need to be producing art. If you must, then you should.
Not producing art, in such circumstances, is a violation of your every instinct and reason for being. You should take your vocation and calling seriously and structure your life so that both your art and your sleeping hours feature prominently and are protected. That might mean less money and far less security, but you will live a longer, healthier life, I submit, free from the frustration of denying what your heart most desires.
There is a lot of satisfaction to be gained from making art. If you make it, having had adequate rest, your art will be the best it can be. When and if the dictates of working life prevent you from making good art and sleeping enough, then your day job has taken over your life tyrannically and allowing it to continue to rule and dominate your existence indefinitely is a sure way to make yourself sick. That sort of job is of no benefit to you. The money might be good, but it is costing you your health and frustrating your dearest wish to produce creative things. Why should anybody have to live like that? What is the point of earning the money, if all it provides is a miserable existence, rather than a pleasant, fulfilling life?
You can be living an impoverished life, even if you have earned a lot of money. Poverty is not only about having little money. It’s about being without options and self-determination, subject to the whims and charity of others. You can be poor, even when supposedly rich. When spending your entire existence doing something other than that which your heart tells you that you must do, just for the money, you live a diminished, hemmed-in, controlled, constrained, unhappy life.
It’s not easy to find a way to make your art pay, but it must surely be easier than living with poor health and a feeling that you should have been somewhere else, doing something else, the whole time. Dying with regrets must be the most painful and expensive thing there can be. You might struggle financially, but at least you will have the satisfaction of leaving a tangible legacy of art you made behind, which you can be proud of and which might make people remember you, when you’re gone. The stock of beauty, in the world, will have been increased and that’s a job worth doing. Living every day feeling rested and with a smile on your face, because you are doing what you love to do most, cannot be priced in dollars and cents.
Sleep well, my friends.