I just finished reading a blog post, a rant more like it, about how some artists should go GET A JOB.
I felt the desire to comment on it, since based on my own experience, he couldn’t be more wrong. He starts by saying: “GET A JOB. A stable one. 9-to-5. With health insurance and a 401k. GET IT NOW.” He directs this at artists of my generation, in their 20’s and 30’s. He says:
“Stop angsting over whether your Art or your Muse will survive Selling Out. Stop saying that your delicate artistic expressiveness can’t cope with an office job. Stop being allergic to money and then wondering why you can’t make rent and your lights are always being turned off.”
The first part made me laugh. A stable 9-5 job with a pension? Why, these days finding one of those sounds just as elusive as scoring a record deal, or successfully selling out your paintings at an art Gallery. It takes what feels like years to score one of those, and as time passes on, the fewer of those jobs will exist. William Bridges predicted the slow decline and extinction of the “job” back when he published his book “Job Shift” in 1992. The ironic thing is that slowly, with the dwindling down of 9-5 jobs, it’s the creative class that is predicted to rise to the top. Yeah, that’s right, those same artists the author of the blog is lecturing at. And here’s why:
Artists already have a lot of the skills necessary to survive in the current job market. Its the same skills that even those handing out the elusive and very much coveted 9-5 jobs are looking for. They are resourceful, quick to adapt to changing environment, able to think outside the box, are used to project based assignments, have the self awareness and ability to self market themselves, and the passion and creativity to get the job done. When I see a “starving artist”, I see someone who understands what the world is really like today, for most people, artists or not. And by the way, most “starving artists” I know do have jobs. Sure, part time, but guess what, most people looking for full time work also have part time jobs. Or temporary contract jobs. Or full time positions with no benefits or pensions. As I’ve mentioned before, in my city alone, half of all workers have some form of precarious employment. That’s just the nature of employment in general. Starving artists are in the exact same scenario as other workers. Except, starving artists are more equipped to deal with it and probably more motivated to do so. They don’t fear the soul sucking “desk job”. They realize that no matter what field of employment you’re in, only the best people get the job, or make the sale. And to be on top, you have to really love what you do.
Yes, we now live in a time where “loving what you do” is not just a blessing, but the best way to survive in such a competitive economy.
I also want to provide an example of how the “artists” who give up looking for the stability of a 9-5 knowing full well that it’s just a myth, how they actually not only survive, but persevere.
My friend Sonia makes jewelry and accessories. It was her way of staying creative after giving up her dream of going into fashion when she decided to take environmental studies in University instead. She wanted to set her parents at ease that she would be able to get a nice cushy 9-5 when finishing her Degree. Well, she finishes her Degree this year and has already told me that selling her line of jewelry has proved to be so successful, that instead of looking for a job in her field of study, she plans to commit to her businesses full time. While working part time at Ikea, taking on a full time study load, she has built herself two very successful jewelry brands that she sells online, at specialty boutiques, and even sells overseas. She’s even been featured in a few magazines and fashion shows. She tells me there is no point looking for a job, she’s making more than enough on her business alone. And I’m a huge fan of her brands COVEN and Quaintrella
If I saw a starving artist, the last thing I would tell them to do is to “Get a Job”. That’s a dead end. The only people I’d recommend that to is someone who wants to get a 9-5 job since they’ll take years to find one anyway. What I would tell a starving artist is this: forget getting a record deal, or living off your work, that’s unrealistic. Find a way to make money. Be creative, look around you. Look for what is needed in the world around you. Learn to match your skills and what you have to offer to that need. Then learn to sell that idea or make it a reality. Learn to sell yourself and your skills. And always do something that you will love and be passionate about, because there is no better way to guarantee your quality.