I used to work in online marketing, and in the beginning, I liked it. I loved learning all those new things and testing them on my clients. In a way, my work projects were the sandbox for trying new techniques and strategies. At the time I was not thinking about having my own business someday, so everything I tried out for my clients was a welcome learning opportunity.
Over time, though, I started focussing more on my creative side again. I went back to taking singing classes and began writing poetry again. I thought about this business idea or that and must have come up with a thousand ideas for running a creative business. Really. Anything between crochet, hand-lettering and writing, chances are that I have a business concept for it somewhere.
The more I involved myself in my work, the more I felt the drain of my day job. I was utilising a similar set of skills on both. A lot of creativity, a lot of strategising, a lot of economically directed empathy. When I came home from work, I would often not have any energy left to put into my own things, especially when it was about writing or about relating to other people. My day job was eating that particular energy.
The worst thing was that on top of draining my energy, the work never really felt valuable to me. I did not get to pick my clients myself and a lot of the times it was challenging for me to make them understand the value of what I was doing. Often, they wanted quick results without really doing the necessary groundwork. Sure, I can come up with an ad and send traffic to their site, but if their business does not have a well defined and appealing brand, that traffic will not convert. I felt like I had too little control over the variables that influenced “success”. I was also just plain bored.
I was getting more and more frustrated, and the drain was starting to show. Looking back, I was very unhappy with the work. The “problem” was that I love the company I work for. I deeply appreciate my colleagues and my boss. I like it there. So looking elsewhere felt “wrong”. On top of that, I didn’t want to end up doing the same thing elsewhere.
I got lucky and had the chance to pivot. One of my colleagues left, and I took over the accounting and office management on the fly. Since I had helped set up all the processes and systems years before, I knew a fair bit about how to do the accounting, run the billing processes and make sure we get our invoices paid on time. Besides, I seem to have a good mind for organising things. I like a well-organised stationary station and properly labelled files. I also love to put things back into an ordered state.
As soon as I started working in my new position, I began to feel better. My mood improved and my energy stayed more consistent. I can do my job easily enough to feel competent, but I still get to solve problems and learn new things. Most importantly, I do not feel as emotionally involved anymore, and my creativity stays protected. Success does not depend on someone being happy with me, it only depends on having everything accounted for and the office running smoothly.
It reminded me of a book I once read. It is called [“Overlap” by Sean McCabe](https://seanwes.com/book/). He explains why a day job is vital if you are pursuing a passion project. He also emphasises that the day job should pay your bills comfortably while not draining the energy you need to work on your passion. Protect your passion.
My own experience confirms this. While I love working on my side projects, I would like it significantly less if working on them would put me in financial stress. Financial fear is not a good state to be in for creativity. I also love that with my new job I can come home from a day at work, feel like I did an excellent job at it and still have the energy left to write, draw, doodle, make something or do some proper thinking.
This strategy seems to be more common among creative people than we like to talk about. I came across a [series of articles](https://medium.com/s/day-job) on medium today. In them, a writer is interviewing other writers about precisely this topic. “How did you pay your bills while you wrote the book”? I love knowing that I am not the only creative with a day job and I am relieved to finally get rid of the belief that creative pursuits are only worthwhile if they come with some sort of suffering. I think you can make great art, write great books and pursue a creative life even if you do not risk your life and livelihood for it.
I hope that this message spreads. I hope we come to encourage creative endeavours more. I hope we teach our children.
I hope we teach ourselves.