This New York Times article, Does Having a Day Job Mean Making Better Art?
There are all the usual arguments for the usefulness of day-jobbing, not least among them financial stability, which has always been my #1 reason for having one. (That, and health insurance. Thanks, America!)
And then there’s this:
But then there is another category of artists-with-jobs: people whose two professions play off each other in unexpected ways. For these creators, a trade isn’t just about paying the bills; it’s something that grounds them in reality. In 2017, a day job might perform the same replenishing ministries as sleep or a long run: relieving creative angst, restoring the artist to her body and to the texture of immediate experience.
But this break is also fieldwork. For those who want to mine daily life for their art, a second job becomes an umbilical cord fastened to something vast and breathing. The alternate gig that lifts you out of your process also supplies fodder for when that process resumes. Lost time is regained as range and perspective, the artist acquiring yet one more mode of inhabiting the world.
This is one of the reasons I’ve oft advocated for not giving up social interactions for writing: life is fodder for art. Your fiction wouldn’t feel real if you didn’t base it on real people, real emotions, real experiences. And in order to have those emotions and experiences, as well as know about people who are different than you, you have to get away from your desk and go out into the world.
Hence, for introverted homebodies like myself, the job. My default mode, if I have a day off, is to stay inside my house and write. If I didn’t have a job to go to four days a week? I’d like to think I’d make more plans, go to more coffeeshops, strike up more conversations with strangers. But the reality is, I might not. I might stay in and write. I might go days without talking to anyone other than my husband and my cats.
Not that my startup job provides that much exciting drama. It’s a chill office where everyone gets along and I spend the majority of my day sitting quietly and working (which is typically writing of a different sort: blog posts and social media captions and ad and website copy.) If my purpose of having a job were solely to mine for writing fodder, I know exactly what I’d do: I’d work in a bar, restaurant, or coffeeshop, the kind where regulars come in and recount their woes to the people behind the counter. (I was a waitress for several years in high school, college, and beyond, and I’m still mining those experiences for my writing.) I actually knew a guy who was a writer, fireman, and bartender. When I asked why he did all three, he said “Writing because I love it. Fireman and bartending so I have things to write about.”
But–at my day job, I do interact with people every day. I meet people who are different from my family and friends, observe their mannerisms and personality quirks and the things they say. It provides me with a structure, an external life, and socialization–as well as money and stability.
So. The next time I’m lamenting the necessity of my job, I’m going to remember this. Sure, I’d love to do fewer hours there, so as to have more time for other things. But it is what it is and I’m grateful for what I do have.
NYT article found via Austin Kleon‘s newsletter. If you don’t yet read this guy’s stuff, you seriously should.