Austin Kleon on Keeping Your Day Job

Writer and internet person Austin Kleon holds regular office hours over on his blog, and today someone wrote in to ask him for advice about balancing paying the bills and doing creative work. You should read the whole thing, but:

Every artist without a sugar mama or a trust fund or extreme luck has had to deal with this.

Just hang in there.

This is what I recommend: get up early. Get up early and work for two hours on the thing you really care about. Then, when you’re done, go to your job. When you get there, your boss can’t take the thing you really care about away from you, because you already did it. And you know you’ll get to do it tomorrow morning, as long as you make it through today.

The “meaning” in your job is: it pays the bills. Get as good at it as you can, because it’ll make the job more interesting to you, and it will provide you exits to another one. Then find the rest of your meaning elsewhere.

Austin has followed this idea for awhile, and always has good things to share.

As for me, I spent an hour with a health insurance broker yesterday afternoon and am suddenly feeling very wistful about my day job.

Photo: 1lenore

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5 Comments / Post A Comment

gyip (#4,192)

That is amazingly helpful advice for me. Thanks for sharing it, Meaghan.

Meaghano (#529)

@gyip Awesome. Keep going!!!

aproprose (#1,832)

Thank you for this! My day job funds what I really love to do, but some days (like today) feel so monotonous. This was a great reminder that I’m very lucky to be free of that financial struggle creatives often face, and my free time is mine to be solely focused on what I love to do.

Meaghano (#529)

@aproprose Yes! Just savor that time and your paycheck and also I will tell you that even without FT work I certainly don’t work on my thing-I-love more than 2-3 hours every day anyway. When I was working I was always fantasizing spending all day writing but then in reality it’s hard to be “on” and focused creatively more than those few hours at the beginning of the day.

WayDownSouth (#3,431)

Yes, I liked this article a lot. Very nice.

One of the advantages of having a day job is that your fun activities remain fun, not work. For example, my primary hobby is photography. I’ll spend hours on a single picture trying to make friends or family look as good as possible. If I was trying to actually make money via photography, then I’d be much more concerned about what would sell and the efficiency of the overall process. It would be simply other work, not fun.

A friend of mine had a discussion with a professional who makes a living playing a game which most people play for fun. He said that he is quite envious of the amateurs. He said amateurs play for fun and genuinely enjoy themselves, whereas for him it’s work. If he could choose again, he would have become an accountant and played the game for simple enjoyment.

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