Seven Days of Self-Employment

You ever do something really stupid/awesome? Like quit your job with the goal of somehow making a living from doing the things you love every day? Nah, you wouldn’t do that…because you’re smart! I, on the other hand, am not.

Well, in case you were wondering what would go through your mind if you were to toss stability out the window and cling to your creative powers for a living you are in luck.

Day One

You are filled with creative zest and vigor. The world is your oyster–or something like that. You’ve grabbed life by the horns, and doggone it, you’re going to teach it a thing or two about being the architect of your own future.

Day Two

Given that you didn’t actually accomplish much of anything on Day One, you are now hit with the reality of your lack of consistent income.

Google has become your best friend. You might learn from others who have ventured down this path. You will surely find blog after blog of “How I made 10K My First Month of Blogging.” Avoid that nonsense. You are a true artist and you are not looking for a ‘get rich quick’ scheme.

…but if someone would pay you for your slightly haphazard blog posts, you wouldn’t turn it down.

Day Three

You’ve got 600 ‘To Do’ lists detailing each move you could make to promote your art. You’ve started three blogs, a Facebook page, Instagram account, Pinterest board, Google + profile, journaled your feelings, called your mother for a pep talk, watched an entire season of Gilmore Girls while you stared at a blank canvas, and reorganized your underwear drawer.

A clear plan of what to do with your life still eludes you.

Day Four

You slept funny the night before. You dreamed someone siphoned all the money from your savings account which reminded you that your mortgage is due next week. You managed to doodle a bit that morning, but then questioned the purpose of life. Is it degrading to sell yourself? Will anyone understand your art?

How will you feed the children?! …Do you actually have children? Regardless, it feels like something you should worry about.

Your previously abundant creative drive has now withered. Oh, the pressure!

Day Five

Your creativity has not returned.

Think happy thoughts. You are told you are overthinking things. “Just breathe,” they say. “Get some exercise. Yoga fixes LITERALLY everything.”

At the end of the day, you take note of the peace and quiet in your mind. So. Fricking. QUIET.

Day Six

You are determined to accomplish something tangible. You angrily type away, writing your masterpiece of a memoir. Detailing your childhood and why you are incapable of functioning like a normal human being. Artists are supposed to be damaged and full of angst, right?

You delete your memoir.

You make some tea. You sit in silence. You wallow in a little bit of self-pity.

Day Seven

Why did you quit your job? To do what you love.

Why do you love what you do? Because it is meaningful. It is worth doing.

Are you going to be an overnight success story? Probably not.

Can you be content with maybe accomplishing mediocre success over the next six to twelve months? Yeah, that’s probably a reasonable goal to aim for.

You magically start doing things. You turn your music up really loud so you can imagine a montage of your future progress.

Congrats. You survived week one.

I Quit My Job: Now What?

I quit my job. I quit my stable, 8 to 5 office setting job…to be an artist.

Time to panic. Just kidding—kind of.

My first question to myself when making this decision was “What the heck is wrong with you?! Get it together, Kelly!” Then there was this little voice yelling somewhat sarcastically in the back of my mind: “YOLO!”

That voice gets me into trouble sometimes.

In Personality Psychology, I am what is referred to as a “Job Hopper”. I’ve held a total of 13 jobs since I was 15, (and some odd jobs in between). I’ve been a hotel housekeeper, waitress, baker, dental ceramicist, dog walker, cashier, optician, and many more. I’m a model employee when hired, but boredom or anxiety take over fairly quickly and I start plotting my exit. A lot of these jobs were a retail or food/hospitality setting. Minimum wage, no benefits, and high turnover. I attributed my boredom to a general lack of stimulation.  Until my last job on an administrative/finance team in the IT industry.

This setting was fast paced, intellectually stimulating, and had a lot of freedom to learn and grow. The job held my attention for much longer than usual. I loved it. I thought “I’ve finally made it. I am an adult!”

Then I hit a wall. My familiar claustrophobia crept in. At first it is subtle. A general discomfort and propensity to day dream. Then, the irritability began. Tasks I was once indifferent towards became tiresome. Minor inconveniences became a source of anger. Inefficiencies I once desired to correct were unbearable. “Not again,” I thought, but I didn’t give in at first. I fought the urge to move on. The job was great. The people were great. Stable income was a plus. I should like it here, right?

And then I reached ‘Level: F*&% it.’ It’s an awesome level.

Filled with unexpected panic attacks at my desk. Restless legs that want to carry me to a dark corner to hibernate. Inability to recharge my internal battery. Displeasure began to seep into my home life.

Discontentment. Hello, my old friend.

In these situations, it’s like the seasons in my mind shift and I can either fight the inevitable change until I become sick with fatigue—or I can go with the flow. It’s a little difficult to prevent a season from changing. No matter how hard I might try.

So, I quit.

Surprisingly, I’ve gotten quite a bit of positive feedback with this transition. Many people are supportive of the creative lifestyle. Those who know your passions want to see you follow your dreams. There will also be quite a few people who criticize the choice. It’s only natural. Why on earth would I give up stability to do art?

My art teacher in high school once gave the advanced classes an exercise in making a living as a professional artist. He had us budget the cost of materials and how much we’d have to charge for each painting/drawing/creative-something to make a profit. I remember the lesson I came away with was “Wow, being an artist would suck.” And that was my mind set for years. People would ask me if I was going to pursue art as a career and all I could say was “No, I don’t want to be poor.”

I refused to call myself an artist for the longest time. Even in the context of a hobby I renounced the artistic title. It appeared to bring with it an intense sort of scrutiny from the outside world. If you say you’re an artist, people want to see what you’ve got. “Prove it,” they say.

I didn’t want to prove anything to anyone.

Obviously, I have tried to adjust to a more structured environment, but my artist’s heart has other plans for me. Neglecting my creative energy is a cruel sort of malnourishment. I can no longer pretend or wish I am not an artist.

Side note: For those of you who are creative dreamers and you find contentment in traditional careers—I’ve got a lot of admiration for you.

Being an artist means a variety of things. Sometimes, it’s not just about creating works of art. It’s about the way you see the world. The way you take in energy and filter it in your mind. Artists process input and stimuli in a way that creates an end product. Their brains are little creative factories. Random pieces go in—weird, inspiring, mundane, beautiful, horrific, eloquent, and/or confusing things come out; assembled and packaged in a new way. With that being said, we all have the ability to be an artist.

Not all of it is gold. Not all of it should be shared with the world. I’ve got a lot of duds. They are literally stored in a folder on my laptop called “Duds.” Art, writing, poems, songs, recipes, random creations—they’ll never see the light of day. The important thing is that I keep creating. If I don’t, I develop creative constipation. For those of you who are highly sensitive, I’m sure you know the feeling well. It’s like expecting an extrovert to remain silent in a room full of people. You might see their eyelid twitching as they try to control the urge to socialize. Painful to watch. Painful to endure.

In conclusion, I’m an artist. I quit my day job. Now I’m going to figure out how to function and pay my bills before my savings runs dry. Ready and go!

If you have any words of wisdom, questions, encouragement, etc. please do comment below. I will be posting more about my journey as months go by. Whether anyone reads this blog or not.

You’re welcome, internet.


Further Reading: