On keeping your day job

Artists find a way to enjoy the hustle

Illustration by Gabrielle Funk

The archetype of an artist trapped in their average day job, searching for their big break, is a familiar one in pop culture. We see artists who have to work during the day in Bridesmaids, Girls and Wayne’s World.

Is it possible to love a day job, or is a 9-to-5 gig a drain on the creative spirit?

Scott Ford, visual artist, says he has an interesting relationship with his job at a café. 

While he is happy to have a job that pays the bills, when Ford networks with other artists, he says he is reluctant to mention the café.  “There’s this feeling in the back of my mind that when I network, I should be working on things I care more about,” he says. 

Though at times his peers do ask when he is going to quit the café, he says the work gives him a necessary break.

“I’ve tried having a very creative day job,” he says. “I found it way too draining. I was putting so much energy into my day job that I couldn’t put it into my personal projects.” 

Ford says his outlook may change in a few years, but for the time being, having a relatively simple job brings a nice balance to his life.

He says a few summers ago, he chose to finish a big project rather than work a traditional job. 

“I finished it, but just that isolation of working by yourself 24-7 and not leaving the house for days on end, it really gets to you,” he says. “As much as I would like to be a machine and just work on art all the time, I can’t. Very few of us actually can.”

Teela Tomassetti is a local performer and addictions counsellor. She says she has always been devoted to helping people, and learning their stories enriches her creative life. Tomassetti attributes her work to the more complex emotions she finds within each role.

“My position allows me to get creative in terms of the character choices that I make,” she says. “Sitting with people and hearing about their experiences all day, their pain, trauma and events that they’ve been through gives me a really good understanding of people in general.”

Ford and Tomassetti agree that though having day jobs can be positive, there are challenges to maintaining a balance between creative life and work life.

“I’m used to doing a million things at once,” Tomassetti says. 

Her newest challenge is a long commute to work, which can make for 10-hour days. 

“Whereas before I used to be able to, say, scoot out on my lunch break for an audition, I can’t do that anymore.”

Though at some point she would like to live creatively full-time, Tomassetti says she feels lucky to be able to do work she loves.

Published in Volume 71, Number 7 of The Uniter (October 20, 2016)

Related Reads