DISCUSS New York Times - on day jobs

I thought this NYT article was SUPER interesting to us as artists. I’d love your thoughts!

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I think having a job can be a driving force for some to create so long as an artist finds one that compliments their art in some way. By that I don’t mean the job has to be similar, but appropriate to the needs of the artist. Some artists need to have a day job they despise to light the fire of their creativity in their art time. Personally, that doesn’t work for me. I just get weary and too depressed to have the energy to do artwork. But I do feel like I need a work life outside of art as it structures my time. I find that if I just have endless art time, I can do some art something all day and at the end of the day not be able to account for a single hour or have anything to show for it. I’m real good at spacing out and losing track of time.

That’s why my secondary (and some days primary) job is running a little junk shop. Every customer coming in snaps me out of the daze if I’m in one and is an opportunity to reboot my brain. Sometimes I just need that little break so I can readjust for the next time between customers. Most of the day I have a choice to do art or work in the shop. It’s like that feeling when you have something you REALLY need to get done and you suddenly feel inspired and motivated for art. My job allows me to leave that big pile of boxes of stuff that needs to be unpacked, priced, and shelved right in the floor while I’m in a drawing mood. On the other hand if I find I’m going to need to do some mindless task to have any sort of productivity I can do shop tasks. For me, I need the time and autonomy to determine how to spend my day.


This is completely individual. No two artists function the same, and their life circumstances span the whole gamut as well. And the same artist is likely to not function the same at different times in their lives. I know it is the editors that title these articles, not the writers themselves, but the title made my eyes roll – to frame this as such a leading and simplistic question is completely absurd. I can’t even think of general scenarios, but I can say that for myself, any kind of day job (even part time) sucks up all my energy and leave nothing for me to focus on my work. It would not make me a “better artist” (what on earth does that even mean, exactly?) and it is completely out of the question. The times in my life I considered finding a steady job were times where I was close to rock bottom, but in the end I never sunk that low. (Which doesn’t AT ALL mean I’m judging artists who have a job. I do a lot of freelance work, for instance.)
A structured life doesn’t work for me either. It doesn’t mean I balance work and life perfectly, but I don’t need a balanced life as much as I need a stress-free one. And that means deciding on my day in the morning as I wake up, other than the odd engagement. Basically I am at my best creatively when the calendar ceases existing and I can be immersed without interruption or obligation for days on end until I’ve run out of creative juice.

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I agree with what the article said about creativity being improved/fueled by other interests and activities. I think that’s true–if the artist is writing, for example, that artist will write better while also spending time reading and living. While living may certainly include a day job, it doesn’t have to.

I’ve been chasing “artistic success” (earning enough money from my art not to have to take a job) for over a year now, and I have a couple thoughts about that path. First, there’s no such thing as overnight success – just overnight recognition. Some creators do give off a carefree “I’m just vlogging and making millions without trying” vibe, but whenever I’ve followed and researched one of those types, I’ve found that there’s a huge amount of work and effort behind the “carefree” persona.

Personally, quitting my day job last year was necessary on a practical level. I simply would not have had enough time to do Science Mom otherwise. Counselling undergraduates about applying to graduate school and teaching GRE prep classes did not feed into or support my creative efforts at all. The paycheck though? I miss that a lot.

I live with this omnipresent worry about how much I’m messing up our family budget by siphoning off resources for my YouTube channel. And maybe in the coming months I’ll need to take a different day job that would compliment Science Mom and ease the financial stress. Hire myself out to do science themed birthday parties maybe? Blah. I’m applying for a couple grants and have another big experiment to try with Patreon/the YouTube channel before the summer starts. Here’s hoping that something comes through.


As an actor (and a writer), I agree with “art being informed/improved upon by other activities”. Hard core. Actors have to study people and most people are not fellow actors; if all you have to draw upon in your work is your understanding of “THE CRAFT”, you’re going to have a hard time creating a real person.

Plus, being able to discuss NOT ACTING sure is a relief for the people around you. Not everyone wants to talk about art all the time. Hell, /I/ don’t want to.

But there’s obviously a balance because day jobs take time and energy away from your work. I hit that wall with tutoring last year and have, thankfully, not hit it again quite so hard. If you’re doing that day job more than you’re doing the art, it becomes hard not to just get sucked into becoming a tutor, accountant, whatever.