Have you heard of the book Steal Like an Artist? You probably have — it was a New York Time’s bestseller and seems to be doing pretty damn well for itself. (And, I might add, it’s a good, quick read, one of my favorites from last year.)
The guy who wrote that book, Austin Kleon, also puts together one of my favorite Tumblr blogs. It’s party of my daily digest as I glean inspiration for the day.
Recently he’s been posting quite a bit about the relationship between creative work and money. It’s a complicated topic, to be sure, and there’s a wiiiide range of opinions on it, but some quotes Kleon posted all seem to have one thing in common: just like everyone else, artists and writers and musicians have to make money. If they want, you know, things. Trying to make money shouldn’t be frowned upon in the creative fields, as it often is (“Dude, they totally sold out.”) — and creative folk need to give up the illusion that having a day job is some sort of mark of dishonor.
The reality is this: most people cannot earn a living solely based on their creative work. Not all of us can be J.K. Rowling or Stephen King or Margaret Atwood. Most of us will have a day job that pays the bills, and try to steal time whenever we can to work on our creative projects.
And this isn’t even really a bad thing. There’s something to be said for the stability of a 9 to 5. If you’re not worrying about where your next paycheck is coming from, it frees you up creatively to take risks you might otherwise avoid.
I logically know this. But haven’t we all harbored a dream of being an embarrassingly successful writer, artist, musician, who is NOT an accountant, freelancer, doctor in her “real life”? I certainly have. I’ve pondered what my daily schedule would be like (write in the mornings, finances/marketing/cat snuggles in the afternoons). Byron and I have even talked about turning The Gentleman’s Smoking Lounge (aka, the shed in the backyard) into a writer’s retreat, a haven I can escape to and avoid the distractions of the house. The unsaid implication being, “This will be my area when I am a Real Writer.” Aka, a writer who only writes books and is able to make money solely from that.
Which — that’s not exactly fair to myself, and other creative folks out there. I AM a writer. I write, currently, right now. And other folks out there ARE writers and artists and musicians, even if that isn’t what they do from 9 to 5.
Yes, we may turn that shed into a writer’s room. We will reorganize the office so it’s more conducive to creative work. But I will still leave the house every weekday morning to go to work. I will pin together minutes and hours and weekends in which to write. I will still, like the majority of creative folks out there, have a “real job.”
And again — not a bad thing! Some great writers insist on keeping their day jobs (T.S. Elliot and Lev Grossman come to mind). Hell, Kleon even recommends keeping the day job. You gotta pay the bills. You gotta make it work for you.
But it’s hard to nip that dream in the bud. I will always imagine waking up as the sun rises, getting my coffee, and listening to the birds as I walk out to the Writer’s Retreat (formerly the Gentleman’s Cigar Lounge) to start my day.