“Quit Your Day Job”

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While writing my last post about possibly quitting Etsy, I looked online to see if others had written about this dilemma. Not many it seems. I searched “Quitting Etsy” and most of the results were from Etsy’s “Quit Your Day Job” feature. Of course they want people to believe that it’s possible to make your living entirely by selling on Etsy, and of course some people manage it. But it’s not always smooth sailing even if you do manage to become a mega-success (witness this article in the New York Times which includes the quote ““What’s the point of doing something you love…if you are too exhausted to do what you love?”)

I’ve had another article bookmarked for a long time that I’ve been meaning to share: “Keeping or Quitting Your Day Job: 2Roses” from the Etsy Metal blog. I’m just going to copy the whole thing here because when I tried to pick out quotes that I really liked I couldn’t decide because the whole thing is just so good:

As an artist, I’ve never understood the whole premise of “quit your day job”. The implication is that whatever you are doing, if it’s not art, it must be something you don’t like. The other underlying concept is that your success as an artist, and life’s destiny, will never be fulfilled as long as you do anything other than “your art”. Intellectually we can accept the idea that human beings are multidimensional creatures with multifaceted personalities. But emotionally we want to define the individual by what they do for money. Thus, by the popular yardstick, a truck driver could never be a good musician, and a doctor could never be a good jeweler. Of course there are plenty of artists in all disciplines that are living testimony to the fact that this idea is not true.

I define myself as an artist. I create. I solve problems. I make my living from my creative instincts and efforts in whatever direction I choose to apply them. This is who I am regardless of how others wish to define me. Just to be clear, I engage in multiple occupations and I enjoy them all – immensely. They pay well, are very fulfilling of spirit, and afford me great creative freedom. For me it is all interconnected – one life – one work. Thank you, I live a rich life.

I see things you can’t. I imagine and make it reality. I am a map to places you don’t know exist. I am an agent of change. This is my art. It is not the materials or media I happen to use at any given moment. Nor is it the particular discipline or field in which I choose to express myself. Why would I give all this up to live someone else’s definition of my life, my art?

There are many people who don’t particularly like their “day job”, and see the artistic life as an escape. Some who make the leap of faith that they can make a living through their art are confronted at some point with the realization that “art” has become a job like any other. Creative freedom gives way to the necessity of making a living. Artistic vision becomes blurred by the need to produce a never-ending stream of things that people will buy. This is a rude awakening for those who are chasing a dream of the artistic life that never existed. I am completely at ease with the idea that art is a business and embrace it. At any given time on any given day I slide freely from “business” to “art” and back to business. It is all interconnected – one life – one work. So, I’ll keep my day job, whatever you choose to call it.

I consider myself lucky to have a full-time job in an artistic field, which provides me with enough financial stability that I don’t HAVE to worry about how much art I sell, which I feel gives me MORE creative freedom in the end. I work full-time as a graphic designer. Mostly I like my job. Sometimes it sucks, like when I have to wake up at 6:30am in the dark to get to the office when I’d rather spend the day at home making stuff. But, really, what doesn’t suck sometimes? That’s life. However, there is such a societal expectation that if you are an artist that is ALL you should be and do, and if you are doing anything else you are a failure, and you should at the very least be striving toward that point when you can “quit your day job”. If you are not making your living from your art then you are an “amateur” (which is viewed as lesser and mediocre, not as someone who does something for the love of it.) If you do supplement your artistic income in other ways you are not really supposed to talk about it. It is very difficult to find honest accounts (like the above) by artists of how they make art and a living if the two are not one and the same, and even rarer to find such accounts that aren’t negative. Yes, if your “day job” is making you miserable and impeding your creative efforts, you should probably quit. But hating one’s day job isn’t always a given…

There is a multitude of articles like the Etsy Quit Your Day Job series, or things like this article called “Are You Trapped in a ‘Shadow Career’?”   by the author of a book called “Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work.” I haven’t read the book, but the article compares being an amateur to being an addict:

When we’re living as amateurs, we’re running away from our calling – meaning our work, our destiny, the obligation to become our truest and highest selves.

Addiction becomes a surrogate for our calling. We enact the addiction instead of the calling. Why? Because to follow a calling requires work. It’s hard. It hurts. It demands entering the pain-zone of effort, risk, and exposure.

So we take the amateur route instead. Instead of composing our symphony, we create a “shadow symphony,” of which we ourselves are the orchestra, the composer, and the audience. Our life becomes a shadow drama, a shadow start-up company, a shadow philanthropic venture.

I just hate the idea that one must be a “professional” at whatever to make that endeavor worthwhile and that the only way we can define success and living one’s calling is in financial terms. I agree that it is bullshit for someone to work in say, accounting, and call themselves a writer if they never actually write anything. But anything else is just so limiting- as the above article says, just “defining the individual by what they do for money.” People and life are more complicated than that, and the implication in such a definition is that the only things worth doing are things that you can make money at, which is just so profoundly depressing. We all love the adage “Do what you love and the money will follow,” (here is an interesting discussion on why it’s a myth) but I prefer to live by “do what you love whether or not the money follows.” If you love doing something, you will find a way to do it, whether or not you ever make a dime from it. And it’s not failure to make money doing other things to enable you to do the things you love. “One life, one work” is right on.

 

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1 Comment

  1. lagusta November 19, 2012

    Yeah, man. What a great post about the realities of “living your dream.”

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