I’ve had a potentially controversial epiphany this weekend. And, whilst wisdom might dictate that I keep it to myself, I’m sharing just in case it’s as good for you as it’s been for me. But I do want to be clear that I’m not judging those who don’t feel like this is the right answer for them. I respect those who’ve found paths and forged ahead in ways I’ve not managed and I wish them (you) nothing but goodness.
As I often do, and as many musicians and other artists often do, I was pondering how to quit my day job entirely and live on my art. (Not because I’m lazy; anyone who knows the work I put into Varnish will tell you that it’s a full-time job on its own. Add in side projects of various types, and I put in more hours than most non-artists I know.) I was feeling extra eager to sort out how to do this because another friend has recently quit her day job, and all her income is now from things related to her creative abilities. And, just to make it seem more necessary, some of my less active projects have suddenly gotten more active, demanding more time and energy.
The way that this pondering goes is that I think of everyone I know, whether in person or online, who doesn’t have a ‘normal’ job and who seems to be making it just on their creative merits. Then, I think of all the things they’re doing to make ends meet, and I try to figure out which of those things I might also be able to do. Finally, I recognise that most of those endeavours have an element of luck to them so I might still take years to sort it out.
Right now, some of you are thinking that, really, I ought to just quit my job, because burning that bridge will force me to work hard and relieve me of the burdens that my job puts on my time and energy. In a world where I’m the only one who depends on my income, where I can just live in my car if need be, that’s an option I would consider. I’m willing to make myself sacrifice for what I believe in and love, but I’m afraid that I can’t make my loved ones suffer any more than they already do for my art. (I’m not actually joking. Being involved to any degree with someone who’s serious about their art has its costs and difficulties.) Plus, it’s not like I’m slacking on my efforts to move ahead, lazily watching things go by on that un-burnt bridge…
This time, however, the pieces of my pondering came together in a different way. At least for me, here’s what I found:
1a. One point of quitting the day job is to have a schedule that is more conducive to creativity.
1b. The current project I’m on, with the exception of a few days a month, is mainly something I can do on my own schedule as long as I finish the things I’m supposed to finish and put in the right number of hours. Stay up late to write or play? Yep, I can generally do that.
2a. Another point of quitting the day job is to have more time for creativity.
2b. Most of the people I’m watching are still having to spend as many hours on things that aren’t their actual art as they might on a day job.
3a. Yet another point seems to be keeping one’s energies focused on creative pursuits.
3b. Quite a bit of what others seem to be doing isn’t actually working on their main projects (their bands, the paintings that speak to their soul, etc), but it seems to be working on things that use their talents with more of an emphasis on money-making. Which, for a lyricist, means that being paid to write and edit non-creative things (that’s what I do right now) seems like a parallel thing.
4a. Finally, a point of quitting the day job seems to be that doing all this will also help grow their audiences and/or build the connections that move their main projects ahead.
4b. To be fair, I might be missing things on social media, but…a lot of the people I’m watching don’t seem to be regularly having shows or producing art. They don’t appear to be getting this part. I hope I’m wrong. But, if I’m right, I’m at least as successful at this as they are, and having the day job seems to give me as many chances to meet people that I can nudge toward checking out the band, coming to shows, all that stuff that makes an artist feel like they’re succeeding.
Plus, I have (for the duration of the project) stable income and (for a little while, in a couple months) access to health care. Even if you want to be nasty about me wanting to make money with my music so I can pay bills doing what I love, you can’t hate me for generally being glad I can pay bills. So, and here’s where it gets even more controversial, whilst I would far rather just be playing music and paying bills that way, as day jobs go, I don’t hate this one. I think it’s okay. Flexible schedule, the writing I’m doing is actually one of my favourite types of non-creative writing, my boss and coworkers are good people who are easy to work with overall…
This all came together in my head and I suddenly realised that, for now, my situation isn’t actually worse than most the people I’m watching scramble to pay bills with non-day job kinds of income. When this project ends, I will be back to pondering options. And, if I were offered something else that seemed like a better fit, of course I’d take it. But, for now, I’m done trying to run away from this day job. I can stop wasting the energy and time stressing over that and figuring it out. And that feels really good. (Though, like I said at the start, I’m not judging those who are happy with other options. It’s only been a few hours since I stopped envying them.)
Don’t hate me for not hating my day job right now, okay? This is just a nice break, a chance for me to take a breath and regroup whilst paying my bills (and, yes, continuing to make music and write). Chances are good, come November, I’ll be back in the same place you are. Hurrah!
But maybe, rather than just cast aside so-called ‘normal’ jobs as bad options for artists who haven’t yet made it big, we ought to see if there are day jobs we can do that are really okay. Which is my plan. Though I will continue to confuse interviewers by replying that, in 5 years, where I hope to be is on tour with my band, not in the management roles I’m ‘supposed’ to be chasing.
Good luck with your own chases, lovelies!