I took quite a few film classes throughout my four years of college. During this time, I began to see patterns in the trajectory of many of the people working in the industry who would come speak in my classes. Most did not achieve success until later in their lives. Before becoming big writers, producers, or industry heads, they worked part-time small jobs in the entertainment industry — a.k.a. mailroom — just to get their feet in the door. Others worked jobs to pay the bills and stayed up until the wee hours of the night writing scripts.
What really resonated with me is what one writer said: “Your job paying the bills could not be artistic.”
This is why, he explained, many writers wait tables during the day and write at night. It doesn’t matter if you are good at it or like it. If writing is ultimately your passion, then you can’t do it as your day job. For example, if you wanted to write a novel, then you couldn’t spend your day job writing copy at a marketing firm.
On one hand, it seems illogical. If you enjoy writing and are good at writing, then you want a job in which you employ the skills you excel in. You would also then enjoy your job because you’re doing what you love — kind of. On the other hand, this advice is intuitive. The logic of the argument is that if you spend your nine-to-five day job using the creative part of you, then your energy for that task would be exhausted. So if you worked all day writing, editing, and proofing at a marketing company, would you want to go home and write? Probably not.
Perhaps you’re not convinced. Then think of it this way: If you have 100 pages to read for school each week, then would you want to read in your free time? Think about how many times you’ve heard someone say something along the lines of, “I need to read more. I used to read so much, but I don’t now that I already have so much to read for class.” Once an activity you enjoy becomes a task, you become less inclined to spend your free time doing it.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I recently started working as an editorial assistant for a blogger. I love it. I love both the busywork and the actual writing. Yet I feel it siphons my creative powers, even though it’s only part-time. There are so many personal projects I would like to work on. I would love to write more for SFTL, draft some short stories, edit my LinkedIn profile and write a strong personal summary, explore writing for other online platforms, maybe even blog. All of this seems a bit harder after a day proofreading, citing, linking, and formatting content on a blog. Perhaps it’s the loose structure induced by endless summer days or a post-grad plateau, but working on personal creative projects has become more difficult even though I am no longer enrolled in classes with massive amounts of homework.
It seems to me that the options are to A.) be a starving artist, B.) exhaust your creative skills by employing them to projects that are not your own, or C.) make money in a menial job and work on personal creative projects in your free time while simultaneously forsaking REM sleep and any form of a social life. Thoughts?