TUMBLR

A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about...



Posts tagged "day job"

Dec 04, 2013
Permalink
I always appreciate your pragmatic and straightforward opinion on working and creating. I'm a creative nonfiction writer by night and an uninspired nonprofit marketer by day. What's your advice for someone like me who needs to pay the bills but just wants to be immersed in creating and building community around that? I'm in near-constant purgatory at work, and I hate it. Should I just shut my mouth and keep at it? Is this forever?

I get asked this question more than almost any other. And it’s something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. Here’s what I wrote about it in Steal Like An Artist:

I kept a day job until I made more money off art than I did at my day job. And even then, it was scary for me to leave it. Everybody always tosses out that tired “do what you love, and the rest will follow” shit, and I don’t buy it. (I usually say, “Do what you love and the debt will follow.”)

You have to pay the bills and feed the mouths, and you do it however you can. I got married when I was 23—I’ve had a family to support for a while now. I guess in my attitude, I’m a lot like Philip Larkin:

I was brought up to think you had to have a job, and write in your spare time, like Trollope. Then, when you started earning enough money by writing, you phase the job out. But in fact I was over fifty before I could have “lived by my writing”—and then only because I had edited a big anthology—and by that time you think, Well, I might as well get my pension, since I’ve gone so far….All I can say is, having a job hasn’t been a hard price to pay for economic security.

And my experience has been that economic security has always helped my art along more than any kind of “spiritual” freedom or whatever. 

“The trick is,” film executive Tom Rothman says, “from the business side, to try to be fiscally responsible so you can be creatively reckless.”

One thing I would recommend to you is to see the day job as a positive, not a negative:

A day job gives you money, a connection to the world, and a routine. Freedom from financial stress also means freedom in your art. As photographer Bill Cunningham says, “If you don’t take money, they cant tell you what to do.”

Because the real truth is, once you start making money doing what you love, it BECOMES A JOB. And with it comes all the hassle of a job. Here’s Larkin again: 

You can live by “being a writer,” or “being a poet,” if you’re prepared to join the cultural entertainment industry, and take handouts from the Arts Council (not that there are as many of them as there used to be) and be a “poet in residence” and all that. I suppose I could have said—it’s a bit late now—I could have had an agent, and said, Look, I will do anything for six months of the year as long as I can be free to write for the other six months. Some people do this, and I suppose it works for them.

In other words: you always have a day job. (My friend Hugh calls this “The Sex & Cash Theory.”) Right now my day job is going around giving talks and writing and selling books. It’s a good day job, but “doing what I love” would actually mean sitting around all day reading and drawing and making these goofy poems. Guess how much that pays? Not much. And guess how much time I actually get to do that stuff? Not much.

Anyways, this is supposed to encourage you. Every artist without a sugar mama or a trust fund or extreme luck has had to deal with this.

Just hang in there.

This is what I recommend: get up early. Get up early and work for two hours on the thing you really care about. Then, when you’re done, go to your job. When you get there, your boss can’t take the thing you really care about away from you, because you already did it. And you know you’ll get to do it tomorrow morning, as long as you make it through today.

The “meaning” in your job is: it pays the bills. Get as good at it as you can, because it’ll make the job more interesting to you, and it will provide you exits to another one. Then find the rest of your meaning elsewhere.

For more inspiration from people better and smarter than me, click this tag: “Keep your day job.”

Permalink

Philip Larkin - The Art of Poetry No. 30

A favorite Paris Review interview from one of my favorite poets. (Read “This Be The Verse,” “Born Yesterday,” “The Trees,” “The Literary World,” and then get Collected Poems.)

On how you study poets:

Oh, for Christ’s sake, one doesn’t study poets! You read them, and think, That’s marvelous, how is it done, could I do it? and that’s how you learn.

On his daily routine:

My life is as simple as I can make it. Work all day, cook, eat, wash up, telephone, hack writing, drink, television in the evenings. I almost never go out. I suppose everyone tries to ignore the passing of time: some people by doing a lot, being in California one year and Japan the next; or there’s my way—making every day and every year exactly the same. Probably neither works.

On why he didn’t like poetry readings:

Hearing a poem, as opposed to reading it on the page, means you miss so much—the shape, the punctuation, the italics, even knowing how far you are from the end. Reading it on the page means you can go your own pace, taking it in properly; hearing it means you’re dragged along at the speaker’s own rate, missing things, not taking it in, confusing “there” and “their” and things like that.

On why he never quit his day job:

I was brought up to think you had to have a job, and write in your spare time, like Trollope. Then, when you started earning enough money by writing, you phase the job out. But in fact I was over fifty before I could have “lived by my writing”—and then only because I had edited a big anthology—and by that time you think, Well, I might as well get my pension, since I’ve gone so far….All I can say is, having a job hasn’t been a hard price to pay for economic security.

On the kind of poetry he liked:

Probably my notion of poetry is very simple. Some time ago I agreed to help judge a poetry competition—you know, the kind where they get about 35,000 entries, and you look at the best few thousand. After a bit I said, Where are all the love poems? And nature poems? And they said, Oh, we threw all those away. I expect they were the ones I should have liked.

Read the whole thing.

Filed under: poetry, Philip Larkin

May 10, 2013
Permalink

On doing what you love

“The key to eternal happiness is low overhead and no debt.”
—Lynda Barry

Anybody who tells people to “do what you love no matter what” should also have to teach a money management course.

Low overhead + no debt + “do what you love” = a good life.

“I deserve nice things” + debt + “do what you love” = a time bomb.

(Image from Steal Like An Artist)

Mar 29, 2013
Permalink
The best work in literature is always done by those who do not depend on it for their daily bread.

Mar 20, 2013
Permalink

Jan 07, 2013
Permalink
This book was written in the Rochester, New York, offices of Radian Corporation between 1989 and 1996, at a computer strategically located to maximize the number of steps a curious person (a boss, for example) would have to take to see that what was on the screen was not a technical report about groundwater contamination but a short story.
— George Saunder’s preface to CivilWarLand in Bad Decline

Feb 24, 2012
Permalink
I’m discarding my own advice and leaving my day job today. Here’s an explanation.

I’m discarding my own advice and leaving my day job today. Here’s an explanation.

Feb 14, 2012
Permalink

William Carlos Williams on the freedom of keeping your day job

In his Autobiography, William Carlos Williams recounts what led him to pursue medicine as a career:

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…

It was money that finally decided me. I would continue medicine, for I was determined to be a poet; only medicine, a job I enjoyed, would make it possible for me to live and write as I wanted to. I would live: that first, and write, by God, as I wanted to if it took me all eternity to accomplish my design. My furious wish was to be normal, undrunk, balanced in everything. I would marry (but not yet!) have children and still write, in fact, therefore to write. I would not court disease, live in the slums for the sake of art, give lice a holiday. I would not “die for art,” but live for it, grimly! and work, work, work (like Pop), beat the game and be free (like Mom, poor soul!) to write, write as I alone should write…

Filed under: day job

Feb 07, 2012
Permalink

Feb 04, 2012
Permalink
Subscribe to my newsletter and get new art, writing, and interesting links delivered to your inbox every week.