Artists and Creatives: Should You Quit Your Day Job?

Most creative people dream of the day they can quit their day job and focus on their real passion. Writers want to write, painters paint, designers design, filmmakers make movies – all full time without having to work somewhere else to pay the bills. You have no idea how often I’ve dreamed of having the financial resources just to write books. But my banker and mortgage company don’t agree. They want me to keep doing my day job as well. But then, I started seeing plenty of evidence that actually keeping your day job can be a positive thing. After all, there’s a significant list of great creative artists who made a conscious decision to keep their regular jobs – even after they were successful at their dream.

Novelist Kurt Vonnegut managed a Saab dealership. Composer Philip Glass was a plumber, furniture mover, and drove a taxi. Poet T.S. Eliot was a banker. Writer Toni Morrison was a magazine editor and mom. The list goes on and on.

The Los Angeles Times reports this list:
William Faulkner worked as the postmaster at the University of Mississippi.
Franz Kafka was a bureaucrat.
Anthony Trollope was a postal surveyor, and it didn’t get in the way of him writing thousands and thousands of pages of fiction.
Charlotte Brontë was a governess. Lucky for us, her resentments surfaced in “Villette” and “Jane Eyre.”
The list goes on and on.

The Park Forum devotional tells the story that William Chatterton Dix was born in Bristol, England, on June 14, 1837. He became the manager of a marine insurance company in Glasgow, Scotland, and although this was his vocation until the end of his life, Dix was also a hymn writer. Over the course of his life, he wrote 40 hymns, including “The Manger Throne,” from which “What Child Is This?” is taken. A brilliant hymn writer – who wrote hymns that people would be singing almost 200 years later, spent his days managing an insurance agency.

The bottom line? Don’t feel undue pressure to make your creative passion pay for itself. Some of our greatest artists throughout history kept their day jobs, and for many, that day job was the catalyst that stoked their creative fire.

What do you think?  Does your day job help or hurt your creative ambitions?

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