The artist and the real day job

At Arisia (a local science fiction convention) I attended a panel on living your creative dream. The people on the panel were musicians, clothing makers, and craftsmen who had found a way to support themselves with their art, sometimes with the help of a money-earning spouse.  Everyone on the panel seemed tremendously happy, and it was inspiring to listen to.

Unfortunately, it had nothing to do with my actual life. I earn very little from my writing. I don't have a freelancer's temperament. And while my spouse does many things, earn enough money to support the family is definitely not one of them.  I admire and respect those who make it on their art, whether it's writing, or sculpture, or music.  It's just that, after many years, I've been forced to admit that I'm not one of them.

So I have a real day job.  I am a marketing director for a financial services firm.  It's a small firm, and I lost my one staff member in a recent budget cut.  I'm good at my job, and try to devote my days to fulfilling its requirements, and selling our company's products. To all appearances, I am a regular middle-class office worker who keeps regular hours and goes to the gym at lunch.

For a long time I was...I wouldn't say resentful of the need for a day job...but certainly not delighted by it. I figured that real artists, if they did have a day job, got one that indicated their denial of its necessity. They worked in a bookstore, or did fill-in design work, or something like that. They lived like graduate students and didn't give in.

I need to feed my children, have health insurance, and lay away money so I'm not impoverished in my declining years.  And I...OK, I might as well admit living well.  I like not worrying about money, I like being able to go to out to dinner with friends, I like being able to afford car repairs, I like taking a vacation now and then.  So, I suspect, do you.

I also want to work on what's intimately important to me--in my case, my writing.  So (most likely, if you are reading this) do you.

Here's what I can tell you: it can be done. You can work a real grownup day job, with responsibilities, fellow employees who rely on your work, a 401(k), standing committees, office politics, and not enough time off.  And you can feel the passionate joy of creation.  I won't pretend it's easy. The occasional bout of despair is inescapable.

I just wanted to let you know you are not alone.