Can You Be and Artist and Still Be Joyful About Your Day Job?
The short answer is, yes. But I didn’t always think so. My god, did I hate the fact that I had to work. For *so long*, I felt oppressed at having to work in an office when I really just wanted to paint. (oh, hello there, Over-the-Top Histrionics). Yes, in a perfect world, I’d be painting all day and making enough money from my art to pay my rent. But, that isn’t working for me, not right now anyway.
So is it lazy complacency to cultivate happiness at the office when you’d really rather make a living off of your art? Does it mean you are not working on your creativity and dreams? Hell no! It is VERY possible to strive for your dreams while also embracing your current life. What I mean by “embracing your current life” is to be present and experience your life as its happening – not to miss out on everything while you fantasize about the future. If you are in a place in life where you need to work a full-time day job, at least for the time being, here are your choices: you can come to terms with the fact that you have a day job, balance your work with your art-making, and notice and experience all the good stuff that you currently have in life. Or you can be sad about it. That sadness compounds on itself. It fosters a “there’s not really a point” thinking. And that thinking in turn fosters a blocked artist getting home from work and sitting on her couch instead of being at her easel.
The day job doesn’t have to be this awful presence in your life. I feel lucky to work in a place where I value the mission and feel valued by my employers. As a result, I *want* to do good work here. (If your day job does not do these things for you, it may be time to seek one out that does. They exist. Honest.) This is not to say I don’t have terrible days, or often wish I was painting instead of working on spreadsheets. But I am much more at peace about my life with a day job now. I understand that the job helps me paint: I use the money I make from my salary to pay for art supplies, classes, and painting retreats overseas. I find inspiration for projects in the scenes I see on my commute. I am inspired by my coworkers. In turn, the paint helps me work better at the office: I find that being creative in my own personal life sparks me to be creative about my day job. My mind tends to be more alert and creative in the office when I have art projects nestled in my consciousness. Because of this, I feel purpose in my job. This purpose and energy actually feeds my art-making energy. It creates a wonderful feedback loop. Energy and inspiration begets more energy and inspiration.
So the point is, don’t be down about your job. Be grateful for it, notice the amazing stuff all around you in the midst of your working life, and you will be inspired to make art. I am in no way saying that an artist with a day job shouldn’t make an attempt to be free of it and try make a living off of their paintings. Yes, absolutely go for it if that is what your soul is crying out for you to do. But if you need to go through a period of transition to get there, during which time you will need to work that day job, being at peace that this is the way things are FOR NOW will help you make better art and calmly develop a plan to make a living off of it down the road.