Today at work, I had a mostly usual day. Went through a ton of files, ate lunch, went through another ton of files, and had conversations with some of my coworkers about life, the weather, and the job. Pretty average. Oh, except for the fact that I came up with several different ideas for short stories and articles today. About 16 new ideas total, if I remember correctly.

And this is not unusual for me: just yesterday I had an idea for a psychological horror novel. The day before that, I came up with a science-fiction/horror novel, all while sitting calmly at my desk and going through file after file after file. So while coming up with so many ideas in a single day is somewhat unusual for me, coming up with ideas while working or going to classes is a pretty regular occurrence for me.

Why am I making a blog post out of this? Because there are some writers–not many, but some–who are under the mistaken impression that holding any sort of job will stifle creative juices and ruin them as an artist. For example, I used to be on friendly terms with a writer and blogger over in Europe. He wrote a lot of poetry, took plenty of photos, and was working on a novel. For reasons that I never found out, he and his wife separated and he ended up living on the streets. Because he didn’t want to get a job that would most likely force him to be a slave to a corporation or a government (at least based on his political views I assume that’s why he didn’t get a job), along with his views that a job would ruin his artistic power, he asked his readers to donate money to him through PayPal so that he could buy airline tickets to America where his parents were. Nobody donated, which he felt was a personal insult and he got really nasty afterwards. When I tried to be nice and encouraging to him, he swore at me, leading me to stop following him. Last I checked he’s still in Europe and living on the streets billing himself as a starving artist.

Now, I’m not saying that all artists who refuse to get jobs are like this. Many are the kindest, sweetest people you’ll ever meet. They’re sincere about wanting to do well in their chosen fields. But I do want to let artists of all kinds know that a job won’t necessarily ruin your career and your skills, whether you’re selling only a few books or several thousand books. In fact, sometimes a job can help you. Several of the people in my office read my work when it comes out; I wouldn’t have made some of the money I’ve made without their help. Not only that, but I’ve made a few connections through my job, including with a screenwriter I met today who’s working on a screenplay while helping students out with financial aid and other questions during the day. Tomorrow I’d like to give him the name of a professor at school who also has connections to Hollywood. I figure that’d help him.

So don’t worry about losing your creative streak if you get a 9 to 5 or even just a part-time job. It may actually make you more creative, or give you the drive to produce better work just so you can get out of that job. I’ve certainly benefitted from working. I’ve come up with so many ideas over the years while working in the financial aid office. I don’t think I would’ve come up with those ideas if I was in a different setting.

Not to mention the fact that I would’ve had to move back in with my parents or become homeless long ago if I hadn’t gotten a job. Trust me, I’m very grateful for that. Especially since I’m sheltered from the cold. Do you know how bad the weather can be in Ohio in winter?

If you’re still not sure, just go ahead and try it. Give it a month or two. If a job does kill you creatively, then I’m sorry that you can’t write while holding a job. And if you don’t find any change or instead find yourself becoming more creative, then I’m glad things are working out for you and I wish you luck in whatever occupation you’re currently working in.

How has holding a job affected your creativity? What advice do you have for authors who are concerned about how a job might affect their writing?

  1. datmama4 says:

    I have an acquaintance with the same issue, only as a musician rather than a writer. He won’t consider full-time work because it might interfere with the “maybe” band and potential gigs and practice time. He’s now in his mid-fifties, is as close to homeless as he can be, and has been this way for most of the 25 years I’ve known him. All the other musician friends we know have managed to hold steady employment (full-time), write music, and perform when they want for enjoyment and income.

    A job doesn’t stifle creativity. Immature people who don’t want to grow up use it as an excuse to avoid getting a job.

    • I feel sorry for your friend. But in the end, having a job does allow artists to at least live in some level of comfort, and that fosters a creative mind. I hope your friend doesn’t end up on the streets bitter and angry about his life.

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