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Think you can’t be an artist if you have day job? Try this

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to afford to fully devote yourself to your art?

You wouldn’t have to worry about having a job to pay the bills. The only thing you would need to ponder would be what to do for your next creation.

Sadly, for most artists this just isn’t the case. Unless you are Damien Hirst, JK Rowling or have a trust fund the reality is that you are going to have to do some kind of other work which is going to take up a lot of your time and energy. It can be frustrating to have to get up and go to an unfulfilling day job but for most of us, this is what we have to do.

However, with a change of mindset this process can become less painful and more joyful.

Stop thinking it is art or nothing — you can do both

You can be an accountant and a writer, a lawyer and a painter, an IT consultant and a musician.

How can you do both? By stopping thinking that you need great swathes of uninterrupted time to do your art and instead start doing little things toward your creative project in pockets of time around your existing schedule.

For example, I am drafting this blog while taking a sneaky coffee before heading into the supermarket to do the weekly shop. Two years ago I wrote the first draft of a novel in short bursts whenever I had the time, mostly writing just a couple of paragraphs in each stint. Sometimes I only wrote a single sentence but it was wonderful to do that and know that I had written that day.

When I was young I remember my Dad practising his scales and arpeggios for his grade eight piano exam while we were having breakfast, before he went off to the office to do his job.

Can you make your day job more flexible?

Also consider if you can make your day job work more flexible. For the last seventeen years I have worked three days a week as an IT consultant. I have made less money, and had less career progression than if I were full time but I have earned sufficient money to live and had time to follow my dreams.

Over the years I have written two novels, ran a life coaching business, fulfilled my dream of being a motivational speaker and published a personal development book called Don’t Give Up Your Day Job.

And the most miraculous thing of all?

I don’t hate my day job anymore!

In fact, I love it and I am so grateful that it has removed the burden of having to be financially successful with my creative pursuits.

If you can’t go part-time maybe your company offers flexi-time or a nine day fortnight. Or maybe you can ask to work at home one day a week and use what would have been your travel time to work on your creative project. Where there’s a will, there’s often a way!

Do your creative projects in small chunks

What can you do, in baby steps, towards a creative project that you can fit around your existing schedule? I know from my own experience and have seen it in others that once you are able to do something towards your dreams and goals, however small, you won’t feel as trapped by your day job.

Progress might be slower than you would like, but trust me, it is better to do something to scratch that creative itch than do nothing. The latter can often lead to a life of regret, resentment and even depression.

Is it possible to carve out three to six hours a week to take action towards your artistic goals? What’s the first thing you would need to do in order to achieve this? And when will you do this?

Over to you

Now I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment and tell us the challenges you face in combining a day job and an artistic practice? Someone else might have been in a similar situation and have the perfect solution for you.

Do you need realistic encouragement right now?

Then download The Gentle Creative Manifesto — 28 tips to help you slay your creative demons, make time to create and enjoy your creative journey.

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Cali Bird

Cali Bird


Realistic advice on being creative alongside your busy life. www.gentlecreative.com. I write novels too. Need romantic escapism? Check out www.calibird.com