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Do You Have to Quit Your Day Job to Pursue Your Art?

10 July 2011

From freelance writer, blogger and generally creative person Kelly Diels:

You know this drumbeat: Ditch your job. It’s a prison. It’s shackling your artistic impulses.

Well my trumpet has a clarion call answer to that:


IF your job IS a prison and it’s killing you, then by all means ditch it. Just have a way to eat. Starving won’t serve your art.

Sometimes it is better to quit. Better to exit the profession that’s killing you and find a temporary gig that’ll keep the bills paid while your Real Career begins to blossom. Better to paint all day and sling beer in a bar on Friday nights than serve time five days a week as a ___________.


Having a day job, having an interim career – or a decades-long one – that keeps you fed and clothed and watered and well WILL serve your art if you let it. I find freedom in security. I created a business and grew my skills as an artist while working five days a week in an office job. And knowing that each month my bills were paid (and then some) is what allowed me the freedom to create. It also allowed me to buy books and tools and courses and coaching and childcare.

. . . .

So: you don’t have to quit your day job to be an artist or an entrepreneur. You can do both or all three until someone in the threesome demands more – and offers more.

Offering more, and being more is an answer. Doing more just to do more is not.

Contradictory, yes? Perhaps even paradoxical, since I just said, do more. Do your day job and your art and your business all at once.

Link to the rest at Cleavage
Thanks to asrai for the tip.

Self-Publishing, Writing Advice

14 Comments to “Do You Have to Quit Your Day Job to Pursue Your Art?”

  1. It’s not so much your art versus your day job. The question should be – what are my goals in life?

    Goals are destinations. Objectives are stops along the journey.

    If happiness, fulfillment, satisfaction, “doubling your talents” (Biblical), etc. are your goals, and writing is one of your objectives to those goals, then there is no ‘this or that’ mentality.

    ‘All things, all the time’ becomes your mantra because your goals are clear. Writing becomes an objective and in order to write, a day job becomes both its own objective and part of the writing objective (as pointed out in the article, writers have to eat, buy clothes, need a roof over their heads, etc.)

    The real questions are – What are my goals? – and – How do I attain them?

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    (I have to go back to selling pencils on the street corner <– day job) c",)

  2. Amen. Food, shelter, health benefits are priorities. And you can write and keep the day job. Until you hit the best sellers lottery, of course. 🙂

    • Sharon – I think most writers have to juggle, at least for awhile.

      • Maybe forever, not just for a while. I know very few authors who can quit their day job. The truth is, you can write, do the day job, clean the house, wash clothes, raise the kids/pets/veggie garden and attend every single soccer/softball/football/baseball game your kids play in. And toss in some nookie.
        ‘I can bring home the bacon…fry it up in the pan…’

  3. I’ve had a day job that was soul-sucking and therefore I didn’t write. I’ve also had a small business that was great but time-sucking so I didn’t write. Now I have a day job that I enjoy and gives me enough to pay bills without being a time-suck. And I write, lots.

    For every person the mix is different depending on the choices we make. One of my choices is wanting a government pension and state healthcare so that means working even if I’m earning lots of money from my writing. But since I love my day job I don’t mind.

  4. “Starving won’t serve your art.”

    I know lots of writers and artists that learned this the hard way. Thankfully, I wasn’t one of them.

    Great post. Thanks for linking to it.

  5. The financial impact of quitting a paying job for a non-paying one, but a more enjoyable one, is a very straight forward decision. However, money aside, when you quit a job to become a writer, in essence you start a new career. How do you know if you’ll enjoy full time writing? Here is a simple test: take a two week vacation (minimum two weeks, and the longer the better) and write. If you don’t want to waste two weeks of your recreational time for this, don’t quit your day job. If you do, start Monday morning writing full time, see how you like it.
    At the end of your vacation analyze what you did. Did you write more than when you were going to your daily job? Did you make significant advance writing your book? Or you goofed a lot and had to force yourself to write?
    If you goofed a lot and did not write much, go back to work and write when the muse inspires you.
    If you burned the keyboard of your computer for eight hours or more and you loved every minute of it, you found the career of your dreams. Next step, consider how easy is to find a new job if you quit your current one? This is the tough decision.
    One last thing to consider, it takes at least two years between starting a book and publishing it (the indie approach.) Will you be able to survive for two years, even if you are financial successful after two years?

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