I’m oversimplifying a bit perhaps, but I see two general schools of thought regarding how to be creative and make a living.
And I’m reminded of the poet (whom I can’t remember) who said that the only thing worse than having a job is not having a job.
I can only speak for those of us who write, but I imagine its the same for anyone with a creative bent. I used to complain a lot. The reason was that I worked in a profession that didn’t permit a great deal of creativity. It was also a profession that was better suited to extroverts (I’m very much the introvert by nature). I came home quite exhausted at the end of the day, and it was all I could do to force myself to put down any words somewhere between dinner and bedtime. One of the reasons for my career change, I reasoned, was to allow more creativity into my day-to-day so that I would be more creative in my free time to write.
Now, I am essentially a creative problem solver Monday through Friday. I write the code that makes things on the web work. The issue is that the technologies with which I work require a great deal of time to remain current in one’s knowledge as they’re always evolving, and thus I do the same work a lot in my free time, as well. I know, you’re thinking “all work and no play.” Sometimes, though, the work is the play.
That creates its own set of problems. How does one know when to stop working, to take time off? How does one switch gears between the creativity that is work and the creativity that is play? In my case, when do I stop writing code and start writing fiction?
In retrospect, I was very wrong to complain back then. Being able to think outside the box and solve problems creatively each day is great, especially when I get to do it in the context of something as socially, politically, and interpersonally transformative as the Internet. Sometimes, though, when I have free time at home and want to get the latest short story idea out of my head and onto “paper,” I find myself with a very different problem: my creative juices are tapped, the muscles sore from being put to good use all day.
So, all that to say that each day job held and holds its own challenges. Both make me just as tired, but in different ways. The moral to my brief account, if there is one, is to not complain about one’s circumstances, because, as Karen would be quick to point out to me, the grass isn’t always greener.
And, while I’m not complaining at all about my current field of grass, the other moral to this story is that writing (as well as any other medium, I’m certain) takes just as much discipline now. I have to be intentional about making the time, intentional about practicing the discipline. That intentionality is key, and my impulse to think that the need for it would be offset by a new career was very misguided.
Anything creative is work. Hard work.
Here’s to those doing the work.