The Artist – Art and the Day Job

“Man, this day job is wearing me down..taking most of my day.  If only I could quit the thing, and THEN…”

Sound familiar?

One of the largest nemeses to the creative self is the Day Job, which is usually that thing that you can do well that brings a paycheck.  Unfortunately, it eats most of your day (and energy), and leaves you frequently day-dreaming about the time when you can make your Grand Escape.  (Notice my use of capital letters?)

While there are times when the Day Job deserves to be left (don’t be miserable), remember that the time you spend on it allows you the creative freedom to do ANYTHING you want when you go home.  Yes, that may be only two hours, but…during those two hours, you are FREE.  You also don’t have to worry about nasty people calling you on the phone wanting the rent, and can occasionally go watch the latest Marvel movie.

In fact, we are living in a Golden Age…because, back in the mid-1950’s new government laws decreed that you couldn’t work a person over 40 hours a week without offering them overtime pay.  Before then, EVERYONE worked at least 50 hours a week.  I’ve read books where people were waxing poetic about what sorts of wonderful things people might accomplish with their new found freedom.

Then came the Internet.  Alas.

So yes, you could be doing all kinds of things with those hours that you’re chained to a cubicle…and it could be that you can escape to do what you love…..but don’t forget that you CAN do something you love NOW.
The only question is how MUCH you want it.  Do you love it enough to stop watching TV every night?  Do you love it enough to stop playing video games every night?  Do you love it enough to abandon the interwebs?  Hmm?

If not, then may I suggest that you have EXACTLY the kind of life you really want.  You can think about all of the cool things you could have done, and lament on Twitter to your followers……

Or, you can shut up and do something.  Do anything, actually.

Because, here’s the truth: it could be that you aren’t working full time on your beloved art because you just aren’t good enough yet.  You see, when the thought arises “Hey…I just can’t seem to produce enough art to keep in stock…it’s all selling so quickly.  I could probably even make a (tiny) living off of it…”  THEN, you should ditch the cubicle job.  Not before.
And how does one become good enough?

It’s a simple formula: You work your ass off.
Here’s some stuff you may not have known:

  • Bram Stoker (author of “Dracula, the Un-dead”) never made a living off his writing.  He managed a theater and wrote on the side.
  • Stephen King worked in textile mills and did odd jobs (most pretty brutal) until his writing paid off.
  • Kurt Vonnegut was manager of the first SAAB dealership in the U.S.
  • T S Eliot worked at Lloyd’s Bank on the Colonial and Foreign Accounts desk for eight years.
  • Douglas Adams was a security guard when “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” came to him.
  • William Faulkner was the postmaster at the university he dropped out from.

I know a guy who drives an hour one-way to a factory job AND operates a farm AND is pastor of a local church.  You know why he does that?  Because that’s what he wants out of life.  That’s what he decided is important to him.  I’m sure he’s thought about farming and pastoring full time…and he might someday…but until he feels reasonably confident in doing so, HE’S ENJOYING THE STUFF HE WANTS TO DO NOW.  Are you?

Today’s simple suggestion: Stop spending time hating your Day Job, and focus on doing as much art as you can.  Try to find a way to be happy about it.  If you get to do ANY art at all, it’s a win.

And who knows?  Maybe someday……

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4 comments

  1. Yeah, yeah… 🙂

    I think about this a lot. I don't hate my day job. I don't think anything of it at all. It's just something I need to do because I have a responsibilty to my family. I admit that it is eroding my enthusiasm and willpower. But comics are in my blood, so I can't stop.

  2. I've actually meant to start a conversation with you about this, Scott. I'm in the same boat. I'm lucky to have a job that I can do well, that isn't miserable. It's just not my calling, and there are plenty of times that I've thought..”I could be doing art right now.” I'm with you on comics…I'm not happy if I'm not doing them BUT no one is paying me to do them, so….? If you aren't in a position (yet) to quit you day job, then the very least you should be doing is being thankful you have something that pays the bills so that you can create. And create anyway. Or, in spite of. Whatever.

  3. My sentiments exactly.

    Life's too short to hate what we do for a living. If our art isn't what pays the bills (yet, anyway), we've got to take responsibility for finding/creating work that is more conducive to who we are. If our work is currently something that we obsess about escaping from, it's going to effect our creativity anyway. Time to find something else.

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