Etsy Journal

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Don't Quit Your Day Job: The Artist in the Office

by summerpierre

Feb 23, 2010


Summer Pierre is a writer, artist, and musician who has also been known to work as a nanny, art store clerk, and administrative assistant. While many of us on Etsy aspire to be able to be artists full time, it's equally important to remember that we're artists even when stuck in cubicles. Summer's The Artist in the Office is inspiring, realistic, and a visual delight. Check out an excerpt below along with Summer's illustrated how-to for making a zine at work, an Etsy Blog exclusive!

Once, at a party, I was asked the inevitable question: "So, what do you do?" I replied that I was an artist. After we covered exactly what "artist" meant, my new acquaintance asked me, "So, do you do that full time, or are you just a wage slave?"

I hate the term "wage slave." To me, it implies a sort of victim relationship to having a job. It's as if, as artists, we are shackled to our regular paychecks. This is utter crap. Nobody pointed a gun to my head and said, "March into that job interview, make a good impression, and take the job." No matter what I'd rather do or not do, I made a choice to go after my day job. I'm also paid for it.

Often when we dream about being somewhere else — as in a full-time creative life — we can come to resent where we are and think of ourselves as victims or slaves to the system.

Break the wage slave mentality. Make empowering work choices and acknowledge your work!

One time, when I was nervous about a job interview, my brother Blake said:

This reminds me that I am providing a service and my time is valuable.

Your time is valuable!

Part of my trouble when I was an employee involved attempting to leave the artist in me at home. What a crock! No wonder I was angry, bored, and distracted. It's a miracle that they got so much out of me at my jobs! I'd try to sneak my real life into my workday by surfing the Internet and complaining about "my plight." These are not bold acts of empowerment. These are passive-aggressive and often a junk-food kind of inspiration. They taste good, but don't get you to do anything.

One morning, I was getting ready for work debating whether or not to carry my guitar on my commute. I had agreed to perform at a class after work, but, due to its bulk and size, my guitar case is a pain in the butt. In the end, I took it with me and once I stepped out my front door, something magical happened: I felt like me. Normally, when I traveled to work, I felt invisible — but carrying my guitar made me feel like I was carrying my real self — out into the world, and into work. It was powerful.

This experience taught me that as an artist I am always at work, and when I brought a physical tool of my artistry into the office, I felt more relaxed and alert. I was no longer divided between my real self and my work self. It changed my attitude — and it actually made me excited to come to work.

One way to feel like you are bringing your artist to work is to experiment with creativity on the job. Below is a quick sample project: making a zine! A word of warning: Do your job! While I encourage you to do art projects and creative acts at work, the key is to do it small, so it doesn't get in the way of your actual job. The creative acts I describe are ways to keep your mind fresh and to change your experience at work, but you are responsible for getting your workload done efficiently and on time.

Excerpts for this post reprinted by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group Inc., Copyright 2010 by Summer Pierre.

Thanks to Summer Pierre for the words and illustrations of wisdom. For more inspiration and projects to fuel your creativity, check out The Artist in the Office!

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