I am really into this interview with comedian, Sara Benincasa, in which she says:
“Many artists have day jobs. The presence or lack of a steady paycheck does not indicate whether you’re a “real” artist. You’re a real artist if you make art.”
Let me tell you a story. I moved to London in September of 2013. I’d recently given up on teaching (another story for another time but one which I’m ITCHING to tell you). I knew I wanted to write, but also knew I had no qualifications or solid experience other than birthing a few unknown blogs and writing web copy for a designer in exchange for a logo for my then website, which didn’t end up staying online for long (I’ve been such an idea flip-flopper – but again, another story for another time).
So. My experience was in education. And childcare. And I figured it made sense to continue in that vein. Just to fill the gap, you see. While I earnt my writing stripes and got myself established. So I took a nannying job with a south London family who welcomed me with brunch and open arms.
In my head, I’d be out of the job and writing full-time within a year, tops.
Fast-forward to now, and I’m four months shy of three years in said job.
Recently, I’ve been feeling impatient with this whole deal. Because HELLO, this isn’t going to plan. I’m supposed to be a professional by now.
But something over the weekend clicked. Perhaps it was reading a chapter from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, in which she urges artists not to quit their day jobs.
“To yell at your creativity, saying, “You must earn money for me!” is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.”
She talks of not burdening our creativity with the responsibility of paying for our lives. Once that pressure’s on, the fun’s sucked dry. And didn’t we become writers/artists/creative people because it feels good?
Fact is, I live in one of the world’s most expensive cities. I have credit card debt and student debt. I have a car I don’t need and rent to pay. (And I like going out to eat. A lot.) To quit my job before I’m financially ready would not be smart. To expect that of my writing would not make it happy. So I decided to be a grown-up about this (first time for everything) and just look at things a bit differently.
I mean, really, it’s not so bad. My writing is squeezed into school hours, or evenings, or whenever I’m not procrastinating. The family allow me time out for meetings and events. And I’m able to pay my bills and still afford a life I quite like.
And none of that is to mention the two insanely wonderful children I get to spend time with every day. Who I dab with, dance with, and form pop groups who sing nursery-rhyme remixes with. Who I bake with, read with, and do handstands in the kitchen with (shh). Who I take swimming and cycling and to drama performances where they SLAY. Who teach me about Minecraft and internal combustion engines (these kids know stuff) and do accents for no reason (there’s nothing like hearing a six-year-old Londoner say “me lassie” in a thick Scottish accent).
The oldest, he’s a cool one. He has his own YouTube channel and Instagram with witty captions, and he’s not even in double figures. He’s irresistibly inquisitive and has a sensitive heart (though he’d never admit it). The youngest, I’ve been around for three of her birthdays. That’s almost half of her life. The way she beams at me in the rearview mirror from her spot in the back of the car melts my heart on each school run.
So, yeah. I’ll keep writing. Business will keep going. And as for the day job? Right now, I’m sitting tight. I’m being smart. Because I’m more than OK where I am.