The Writing Life: Keep the Day Job

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We would all like to ditch the day job, but some of us must face that bothersome reality: the human need to eat.

I have recently reentered the job market after raising my children. To say that it’s changed a great deal over the past 30 years is an understatement. I have a lot to say about that, but in this post I want to talk about the day job and the creative process.

First of all, why do we write? For me, it’s for two reasons. The first is to make sense of life. By trying to put words to paper, I must make sense of the world around me. That’s not a small task, but it helps me to understand my own life.

Secondly, I want to connect with other people. Those who create art are trying to communicate something. Why do humans do that? Why do we feel the need to connect with complete strangers? Is it just an instinct that developed from the evolutionary process or is something more than that? Is there a spiritual component for our itch to create? This is the theme of most of my writing.

In any event, working the day job has advantages beyond the practical one of money. Writing (or artwork) is generally a lonely process. Going to a day job puts you in contact with other people. It keeps you connected to their problems and their dreams. You can add so much to your creations by paying attention to these things.

Another thing is that the break from writing can actually give you time to think about the problems you are working out in your stories. The brain continues to work on problems even while you are engaged in manual work. When you get back to your writing you have to reorient yourself to where you are in your story and hopefully some time away from it will make it clearer what is missing.

Now, sadly, it is very hard to keep a day job and persist at art at the same time. It takes discipline to carve out some time to get back to it. Also, it means putting other things on hold – like sleep and housework. It takes effort to prioritize your art above these other needs. People can see the dirty dishes, but they can’t see the progress you’ve made on paper – so we find it hard to justify the time spent on invisible things.

This is why so few stick to their art. We do the thing we “need” to do, rather than the things we “should” do. It’s hard to prioritize your spiritual dreams above your physical needs. Finding that balance between living and creating is not an easy path.

So, why not just give up? We say to ourselves “no one will ever see this, only I will ever know it exists.” But, that brings us back to why we do it in the first place. Deep inside us there is a need to make sense of life and to communicate the results of that search to others. We create and we are changed in the process. And as we change, hopefully becomes something good we can offer to others.

We hardly know how we affect the lives of others for good or bad, so we should strive to keep getting better at everything we do. Even if no one ever sees our creative work they see what we’ve become in the process.

It’s possible that our best work, in the end, is ourselves.

So, keep the Day Job, but don’t give up on the Dream. 😉

 

 

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