How to Pursue Your Wildest Dreams While Holding Down A Day Job
Making art is great but it’s not the best-paid gig in the world when you’re just starting out. Sammy explains how she juggles a day job (or two) and being creative, and how you can too.
There’s no shame here: those bills need to be paid
As Destiny’s Child once lamented, ‘bills, bills, bills’. Keeping on top of your expenses is a fact of life for almost all of us (those with massive trust funds: this article is almost definitely not for you. Go away and do this instead). Money makes the world go round, and as sad as it is, you and I need a bit of finance in the old back pocket to survive this cold, hard world of ours.
You don’t have to tell me it sucks. Since uni I’ve been a waitress, a Christmas temp sales assistant, a cold-caller and a shelf-stacker. I’ve worked for free for flippin’ aaages, and I’ve done my best to get as much writing experience in as possible without collapsing in a sweaty, jaundiced heap.
There are upsides though. You are free as a bird in the sky to create anything you want to. Here’s William Carlos Williams kicking off about creative control:
“No one was ever going to be in a position to tell me what to write, and you can say that again. No one, and I meant no one (for money) was ever (never) going to tell me how or what I was going to write. That was number one…
I wasn’t going to make any money by writing. Therefore I had to have a means to support myself… for I didn’t intend to die for art nor to be bedbug food for it…”
And neither should you.
Jam it in wherever you can (honk honk)
While I worked at a supermarket I saved up more money than usual despite the terrible wage because when you’re getting to work for 6am and you want to keep writing too, there’s no time to friggin’ socialise. I would have died. It’s the saddest truth there is. Your situation might not be as extreme as mine was, but passing up a night on the tiles for a night in with you and a pile of editing might ring a bell. It’s long and it’s knackering, but it has to be done.
The way I see it is, your art makes you a happy and interesting person. You don’t want to be running on 50% awesome, and your friends and family don’t want you to do that either. Well, they shouldn’t anyway. Don’t become a complete recluse, but don’t compromise your art or your health either. And speaking of your health…
Exhaustion is not an option
When you need to get stuff done, being ill or too tired to move just isn’t in the game plan. Looking after yourself has to be top of the stack priority-wise. Your health is your most important resource. Stock up on multivitamins, get some greens down you, and watch your sleeping patterns because you are number #1. If you watch ‘Parks and Recreation’, you should already know: TREAT. YO. SELF. Take your health seriously, for serious. Breaks are not cheating; they are mandatory. Your eyes will go square, and you will go cray-cray, and don’t tell me I didn’t warn you, because I just did.
Your mental health counts, too. Us creative types are prone to stress, anxiety and depressive thoughts (that’s what living in your own head most of the time does to you, I suppose). So keep it easy, keep it breezy, and most of all, keep it fun.
“…try to be utterly schizoid about it all”
… says Philip Larkin. Just because your accountancy job with Goober-Jackson Enterprises is dull as dishwater and all you can think about at work is repeatedly stabbing your boss in the eye with a fork doesn’t mean you can’t be a hotshot film director on the side (therapy might be a good option though). In fact, your side-job is a good place to release all that bad karma.
Switching from uniformed drone to ultra-inspired art avenger isn’t always easy, though.
Ways to tap into your ‘art-self’:
- Change your location (café, country retreat, Batcave?)
- Change your clothes (beret, apron, ‘special thinking hat’?)
- Flip your mindset, man (watch a TED talk, have a wheatgrass shot, teach yourself how to tapdance?)
Use your day job as inspo
My ground-breaking, seminal listicle ‘Nine Things to Expect when You Start Working at a Supermarket’ was written on the back of a till-roll while looking after the self-service tills at, you guessed it, my supermarket job. Hustle, hustle, hustle y’all.
Surely we’re better equipped to create art while immersed in the great wide world than if we were encased an ivory tower somewhere? Interacting with the world is the basis of most great art, so get out there tiger- and make stuff happen.