Memo to Artists: Keep Your Day Job

I've always objected to the notion that you need to take a year off to write a novel, paint a mural or record an album.

Likewise, I'm equally bothered by the assertion that an artist with a day job is a sellout. Eating is a noble pursuit. So is learning valuable business skills you can apply to hawking your own creative wares.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for creative endeavors, be they full time or on the side. But I'm also for living like a grown-up, as opposed to, say, couch surfing or subsisting on Ramen-ketchup casserole indefinitely.

Of course, the rub is finding the time and energy to practice your craft while doubling as someone else's employee. The same goes for keeping your resentment of that pesky day job at bay.

Summer Pierre, author of "The Artist in the Office: How to Creatively Survive and Thrive Seven Days a Week", knows this dance all too well.

Before becoming a mother this year, the illustrator and writer supported herself with an administrative gig in the academic sector. But rather than view her day job as an obstacle to making art, Pierre came to appreciate it as a vital part of her creative life -- and not just because of the paycheck that kept a roof over her head.

"Not everyone does well being isolated," said the Brooklyn-based Pierre, who plans to return to part-time bread-and-butter work this fall. "I need structure. I need people. So the job for me was really providing that."

But cash, colleagues and water coolers aren't the only reasons published authors, gigging musicians and exhibiting artists cite for straddling the employee world. The next time you're tempted to ditch your day job (or pooh-pooh another paycheck-earning artist), consider the following:

1. Peace of Mind

We've already established that there's no glory in going hungry. Nor is there much peace of mind, something you desperately need if you're going to use your gray matter to put pen to paper, fingers to guitar chords and so on.

"You start to worry about money and that becomes so consuming. A day job relieves some of that stress," said Alia Yunis, author of the critically acclaimed novel "The Night Counter". Yunis doubles as a film professor at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi.

2. Scheduled Human Contact

There's a fine line between being a creative sort who, in isolation, chips away at her self-directed projects day after day, and being an antisocial hermit who has little reason to change out of her pajamas and peel herself off the couch each morning. (I speak from experience here.) For many who create, being forced to bathe, dress and converse with others on a daily basis is the only insurance we have against the former scenario devolving into the latter.

Yunis agrees: "I used to think that my ideal situation would be to not have a day job," she said. "But I discovered that having a day job gets you out of your head. It's really hard to stay disciplined without scheduled human contact."

3. Creative Discipline

Let's talk about this discipline a moment. Ask any creative type who's taken a summer or year off to work on their screenplay, graphic novel or CD and there's a decent chance you'll hear that they weren't much more productive than they were when they had a day job.

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