Artist and poet Austin Kleon (whose best-selling book Steal Like an Artist continues to inspire) explains why you should keep your less-than creative day job, and how to do it while pursuing your art on the side. Kleon writes:

“You have to pay the bills and feed the mouths, and you do it however you can…And my experience has been that economic security has always helped my art along more than any kind of ‘spiritual’ freedom or whatever…You always have a day job. 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.”

Read Kleon’s full explanation on how dull day jobs can actually help creativity thrive here.

Relevant: Cal Newport’s chapter in Maximize Your Potential, “Cultivating Your Craft Before Your Passion.”

  • xaigo

    It sounds logical, but still, somehow, depressing.:)

    • tannerc

      Doesn’t have to be depressing. In-fact, it should be empowering; to know that if you make it a regular habit to do your craft in the morning (or night, or whenever) then that time is set aside just for that. Nobody can take it away from you, no matter how daunting your day job may be in the short term.

  • FakeDR

    David Baker has been recommending this idea for creative professionals for years. I’m paraphrasing: keep work work and personal pursuits personal.

    • tannerc

      Thanks for reading. My question for you and Mr. Baker is this: what if your work is immensely personal?

      • FakeDR

        @tannec I’ll let his writing speak for itself. See the link below for an article (I couldn’t find any of the live speaking engagements I first heard him talk about this subject).

        It’s definitely another example of his insightful tough love for creative professionals. The older I get, the more I embrace this idea, and the more fun I have with my work.

        @ the one who down-voted my augmenting comment: I am merely the messenger of a professional’s point of view. I encourage you to read this and keep an open mind.

  • tannerc

    Ah, I’m right there with you — and I’m sure millions of others are too.

    Just keep at it, and remember that the moment you turn your personal projects into how you make a living they move out of the “I do this because I enjoy it” category and into the “I do this because I have to pay bills” one. It’s a hard place to be.

    Good luck!

  • Szilvia Szabo

    This is how I started: planned to keep my daily job, and work on my project (my passion) 1-2 hours before and after work and during the weekends. Turned out to be the worst strategy ever: my daily job was highly stressful, kept me 12-13 hrs a day in the office. Whenever I had “free time” I was sleeping (just to gain enough energy to keep me going). I was not advancing with my project at all, was filled with remorse and guilt. Then one day I had enough, resigned, packed my bag, and took the leap. Happiest person ever, should have done it earlier.

  • Web Outsourcing Gateway

    Interesting idea on how to creatively manage work and personal goals in terms of creativity. Thanks for sharing this post, informative and creatively made. Its the passion that will keep the fire burning but don’t let depression from work stop you from creating something that you really want to do.

    • tannerc

      Thanks for reading and commenting Mr. Web Outsourcing Gateway.

  • l.Wilson

    I agree with Mr. Kleon. I teach full-time and throughly enjoy it, but my focus is writing, writing, writing. I love writing. I think about it in the morning, afternoon, and evening. It consumes me. I can’t stop studying it. I can’t stop reading books about it. All day long I ask myself: How can you become a great writer? Because I commute, I don’t have the luxury of waking up any earlier than I already do, but I spend a minimum of one hour daily focused on honing my craft. It has made me a better writer and I am just getting started. Excellence advice. If I had to worry about writing to earn income, my hair would be grey. It’s a crowded field, and I believe it takes time to stand out. Having a steady income helps alleviate those concerns.

    • tannerc

      Thanks for sharing your story! It just goes to show that even if you can’t wake-up an hour earlier every day, there are still opportunities to find time for doing what you love.

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