To all my creative friends who hope to make a living out of your art…
If you are like me…you get all pumped up when you hear talk of “pursuing your dreams” or light up when you hear people say things like “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” You imagine running through a field of flowers writing short stories while Sigur Rós plays mysteriously in the background…or standing on the top of a snow capped mountain selling your paintings while “O Fortuna” reverberates loudly in the air. (No…just me? And who is shopping for art on top of a mountain?)
Maybe you think about the older generations who worked the same job for 40 years and you say to yourself, “Where’s the romance in that?” or “I will not be held captive to the systematic oppression of a left brained world trying to steal my creative essence and bottle it up only to be locked in an ice chamber for centuries upon centuries.” – Obviously I am exaggerating but you get my point.
The reality is you are probably sitting in a cubicle right now, or on a lift truck at a warehouse writing songs in your head or dreaming up your next fantastical novel while wondering if life is always going to be this way. I know I was there and while there is nothing wrong or abnormal about this feeling I want to share some thoughts with you now almost 4 years removed from 9-5 land.
1) Don’t forget to be grateful you have a job. Times are hard. Families are pinching pennies to make ends meet. I remember searching for change in the crevices of my automobile years ago just so I could pay for the dollar menu items I desired from a glorious 1 star restaurant. I was unemployed at the time and was desperate for some type of income. Someone would gladly trade seats with you at your current employer…so even though it’s not what you dream of…try and keep perspective.
2) Don’t let your creativity depend on a job title. Job titles can be taken away and given a pink slip. (trust me I know) – Creativity just is…it exists within you and probably has been there since you were a child. I often found myself thinking, “If I could only sing for a living I would be complete.” In the meantime I wasn’t singing that often for fun, writing songs or doing the things that I loved to do…I was waiting to get paid so I could “truly” go after my passions. Creative employment rarely works this way. It wasn’t until years into my day job that I finally begin playing at restaurants and bars on the weekends for very little pay. I would get off work at 5 and start playing gigs at 8. (Which lead to the current band I am in now that I’m privileged to travel the country with) – Once A-Town came in to existence…it started to force me out of my job because I needed to be available for shows. (Also side note…keep being you in the midst of working your current job as much as you can. Theres nothing more life sucking than putting on a persona on Monday and then taking it off at 5pm.)
3) There are lessons you’re can learn from the corporate world now that will greatly influence you as a full time creative later. While the grey walls of your cubicle may not inspire you artistically…they can teach you some valuable lessons. Hard work, showing up on time, going above and beyond, adding more value to your position than is required etc. I am sure some of my musician friends can attest to this…there are tons of talented musicians in my home city of Atlanta. However…many “less talented” musicians get more consistent work because they show up on time, have a good attitude, add value beyond what is required and exude gratefulness. Lazy, entitled, hard to work with musicians might thrive here and there but from what I’ve seen…they stop getting called after a while. Creatives also often lack the business sense it takes to succeed in whatever it is they are going after…listen and learn from your type A business friends.
So…these are my ramblings for the day. And let me just say that I have failed at all of these at one point or another. I didn’t work as hard as I should have in my past jobs, I was ungrateful occasionally, I did sulk and wonder when I could escape at times. These thoughts are partly from good experiences and partly from screwing up. Also…I am continually trying to apply these principles as I am still dreaming about more creative endeavors to come. I have not “made it” or reached my destination. Creativity is always evolving for me…so still I learn. Hopefully some of these simple thoughts helped or were food for thought.
Peace and love