July 23, 2010
Artists: How to stop hating your day job, part two
In my last post, I gave suggestions for artists and other creative types who feel frustrated by their day jobs, based on a conversation I had earlier this month with Summer Pierre, author of the new book, The Artist in the Office: How to Creatively Survive and Thrive Seven Days a Week.
[Summer Pierre, as illustrated by Summer Pierre]
My previous post focused on ways you can carve more time from your hectic 9-to-5 (or 5-to-9) workweek for your art. The following suggestions -- culled directly from Pierre's life -- will help you inject a tad more creativity into your daily routine, what Pierre calls "integrating your dream life with your real life."
List the ways your day job benefits your art. Maybe you have a flexible schedule that allows you to pursue auditions during business hours. Or your paycheck enables you to rent a studio and purchase painting supplies. Or you teach preteens three seasons a year and write short stories when school's out each summer. The point, Pierre says, is to recognize that you can live your dream life as an artist and your real life as a paycheck-earner at the same time. In fact, if you're working at your art on the side, you already are.
Use your daily routine as inspiration. Most creative types with a paycheck compartmentalize their art and their day job, erecting a Berlin Wall between the two. Pierre advises against this, instead recommending you practice random acts of on-the-job artiness. "Your artistic life never ends, even when you go to the job," she says. For this reason, she suggests folding bite-sized creative projects into your daily commute or employment routine -- from documenting your commute with a poem, a comic strip, or song lyrics to making a collage of a week's worth of stuck-in-a-meeting notepad doodles. Just be sure that your on-the-job artiness doesn't interfere with the work that those who sign your paycheck have charged you to do.
Put your digital camera to work. Of all the possible tools artists can use to document their workweek (from journals and sketchpads to digital equipment), Pierre is quick to call the digital camera her favorite. Collecting a series of related images throughout the workweek -- whether you're photographing your coworkers' shoes, a week's worth of self-portraits taken at 5 p.m., or the mugs on your colleagues' desks -- not only helps you flex your creative muscle during the workday, it breaks up the monotony (for your coworkers too). As Pierre puts it, "It's just a reminder that you're constantly alive."
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
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Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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