It’s probably for the best that Sara Benincasa makes her living as a writer and comedian now, because she was a truly crappy janitor.
“I was terrible at it,” she says. “Very, very bad maintenance worker.”
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She also later spent some time working at a law firm that specialized in immigration for fashion models, helping to import Bulgarian teenagers for a life of catwalk-traipsing. (She lasted about six weeks.) But even though Benincasa didn’t have any books bearing her name or any appearances on TV shows behind her yet, she wasn’t harboring dreams of becoming an artist back then.
Because she already was an artist.
“You are an artist regardless of what you put down on your income tax form in April,” Benincasa says. “You are an artist no matter what, as long as you do your art. If you don’t do your art, you’re not an artist. It’s pretty simple.”
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“It’s really important to know that every successful person in this world has had to put in work, has had to put in time, and has had to do some things that they didn’t love along the way,” Benincasa says. “Real artists have day jobs. Many artistic legends have had jobs that had nothing to do with art. I mean briefly Maya Angelou was a cable car conductor. Sandra Cisneros, the author of The House on Mango Street, was an administrative assistant. J.K. Rowling was a secretary. There are so many great artists throughout history who have done other things because they didn’t have a patron, or if they did have a patron, that patron couldn’t cover all their expenses so they had to work. And some of them, it would seem, found a great deal of meaning in that work as well as in their artistic endeavors.”
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“I ask friends who are writers and have kids how they make the time to write, they say, ‘I just have to produce. I get a half hour while the kid is asleep and I sit down and I write—that’s what happens.’ And they just do it. There is very little romanticism about it. Being an artist of any kind generally isn’t romantic. It’s not a fairy tale. You have to do the work. If you don’t do your art, you’re not an artist: You’re a dabbler. And dabbling is fine. If you’re a dabbler, be a dabbler. I dabble in cooking. I’m terrible at it. I am not a chef.”
Link to the rest at Co.Create