The 40 Hour workweek and you

If you’re seriously pursuing an artistic career, there’s a good chance that you don’t work a traditional 9-5PM office job (if you do, and you’re also working to further your artistic craft, kudos to you…but this blog post might not necessarily apply).

I want you though, to consider persons A, B, C, and D.  I know that work, habits, and planning come in infinitely more that four combinations…but, for the sake of this idea, please bear with me.

Person A works a standard 9-5PM job. They maybe go to a standard gym three times a week to ride an elliptical machine, maybe order takeout three times a week, and make an effort to cook a few meals at home.

Person B also works a 40 hour office job. They have a serious exercise habit as well- for our sake, let’s say they run marathons. They train five days a week at 6AM before work, and also take the time and effort to brown bag and prepare all of their food. While they live essentially the same lifestyle as person A, they save more money each week, and are in better shape.

Person C is a struggling artist. However, they’re a struggling artist who sometimes sleeps until noon because of a soul sucking catering job, and often misses an audition here and there because of this. This person starts a lot of their sentences with “if only”.

Person D is also a struggling artist, but they’ve found a way into the artist/entrepreneur world, and have left behind the drudgery of waiting tables. Let’s say they own a video production company, but are also a tap dancing chorus boy (this person does exist, by the way!). They’re able to continue moving forward because their effort is not simply wasted on a menial job each day.

When it comes down to it, we all most likely want to live lives more closely aligned to persons B and D, rather than A and C. Persons B and D might not have that much in common as far as their schedules or lifestyles go, but at the end of the day, they usually can say they are better positioned, in some various way, than they were at the start of the day.

Let’s Be Strategic

Trying to move forward as an artist is difficult. It’s especially difficult when you seem to constantly exist in the gray area- competent and talented enough to earn the respect of your community and peers, but not quite successful enough to feel like you’ve “made it”. You may, for instance, be in a position where you’re working on high profile projects, but as a minimally paid assistant (in the arts, people get away with murder-hello “stipend”!), or you might be creating work that is reviewed highly but makes no money.

Successful enough where it doesn’t make sense to quit- but definitely not successful enough to really breathe easy.

I hear you. I am you. It is tough.

What I’ve started to realize though, is that positioning yourself as strategically as possible while you’re living in this grey area is almost as vital as the work itself. Because if you don’t continue to strategically plan your next move, you’ll get stuck in the doldrums. And no one wants to get stuck in the doldrums.

I read a lot of “self improvement” and “personal finance” blogs. I like ’em. But most of them are written from the perspective of people who used to have 9-5 jobs, and are ecstatic about leaving their office worlds behind for the joys of blogging. That’s all well and good, but I’m interested in something else. Something, it seems, no one is writing about (or if they are, feedly has done a poor job of locating them for me).

How can we as artists use our particular strengths to not only make good art, but also build careers, comfort, and some semblance of stability in our lives? Isn’t there some way to use the modern economy to our advantage? Aren’t there ways, ways we’re not always thinking about, to work smarter, and not harder, in order to achieve success in our oh so selective fields?

Let’s find out together.