6 Things Only Creatives With Non-Creative Day Jobs Will Understand

Creative woman at desk


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Kiyomi Appleton Gaines316
SHRM-CP, Nonprofit Culture, Writer, Storyteller
July 23, 2024 at 12:3AM UTC

It’s a wonderful thing to be able to patron your own art. It can also be downright exhausting to balance a day job, creative work, and still see your friends and family! With the average income of working writers now around $6,000 per year, people working in creative fields often need to have another source of income just to make ends meet. Historically, most artists have needed another source of income or support than their art, so if that’s you, rest assured you’re in good company. Here are 6 things only creatives with not-creative day jobs will understand: 

1. The struggle of fitting art in where you can.

Working nine to five may mean staying up late, getting up before dawn, or giving up weekends to make something beautiful. Balancing a day job with creative work brings a whole new layer to “work-life balance.” Artists with day jobs know the meaning of priorities and boundaries, and the value of five — or even two — minutes. While many sources advise calendaring daily time to work on your art, that isn’t always realistic. Whether it’s hiding in the bathroom to jot a memo on your phone or blocking out an entire weekend once a quarter, any creative time is good time!

2. The particular exhaustion of NOT making anything.

There is an ebb and flow to creative life, especially when its not your day job, that takes some getting used to. Sometimes inspiration is right there, and everything comes fast and easy. And then, suddenly, it’s gone. There is a particular sense of loneliness that comes with being abandoned by the Muse. Having nowhere to direct that creative energy may leave you feeling depressed, anxious, or wondering if you’re really an artist at all if it’s been [insert number of days or weeks since you’ve made anything here]. 

3. Measuring projects in endurance, not speed.

It can be maddening to have to turn away from your art when the ideas are coming, especially when, by the end of the day, you have nothing left to give to your art. When a long day (or week) of work takes its toll, it can be impossible to bring yourself to put in yet more work on a creative project. This means that creative work can stretch out on a much longer timeline than the standard work week or quarter. Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia still isn’t done! But artists with day jobs know it’s less about finishing and more about returning to the work when and how you can.

4. Putting everything down with the intention of changing it... whenever you have time. 

Though our day jobs may have us setting goals and turning out deliverables on quarterly timelines, creative projects are often in flux right up until the moment when they’re not. Art is not magic. We edit, we add, we remove and cover over. Sometimes we scrap the whole thing and start anew. Change is implicit in the very word “create.” We produce whatever raw, unfiltered, and shapeless thing is in us, and then begin the real work!

5. Having different priorities than your colleagues (and lots of the working world).

Let me guess, your day job colleagues are often baffled by your decisions. Maybe you don’t chase the promotion, skip the out-of-town conference, or actually take your vacation days. Artists with day jobs have to make tough choices and understand that life can come in seasons. You may prioritize your day job to get to a certain income or responsibility level, and then put a pause on that to focus more on investing in your art. Artists with day jobs know that balancing priorities means learning how to shift where attention and energy are directed as needs change.

 6.  Trying to figure out where — or whether — this goes on your resume.

Some day jobs and art jobs may have natural overlap – like graphic design and drawing, perhaps. But if you have a job in accounting, it can be difficult to know how (or even if) your watercolor pursuits fit into a professional context, or where to draw the lines between different kinds of work. In terms of personal branding, breadth of experience, entrepreneurship, and time-management, it’s all a definite… maybe. But artists with day jobs know that finding points connection between your creative work and your day job can bring more creativity and inspiration to both.

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Kiyomi Appleton Gaines writes about work, life, culture, and fairy tales. Read more at a work of heart and follow @ThatKiyomi on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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