Memo to Artists: Keep Your Day Job

Creative types should stick with passion and their day jobs.

ByABC News
September 9, 2008, 6:15 PM

August 2, 2010 — -- 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.