How to work on passion projects while still having a day job
(Hi, I’m Aroon, aka @naxuu. I’m a lawyer slash noise musician with a heart of gold.)
This Onion piece has really been making the rounds on all of my feeds today. It seems like everyone (especially anyone in your office that’s in a band) is sharing it and having a nice big open weep about it. Myself included.
If you’re of a certain creative and ambitious temperament, you might not know whether to laugh or cry reading the article. It cuts like a knife. Between your job, family and friend commitments, and just being exhausted after a hard day at the office or factory, it sometimes does feel like you can barely muster up the energy or twenty minutes of your time for that personal project you’re really passionate about, the one that defines you and gives you a reason to keep going. Quitting your job just isn’t feasible for a bunch of reasons (no trust fund, loans are obnoxious), and spending less time with your family is out of the question.
The piece hits you unexpectedly hard because it masterfully exploits that self-doubt almost all of us carry inside, the one that bubbles up in moments of weakness or despair over our art — the one that tells you that you made a wrong choice by not sacrificing all of your time, money and relationships in favor of single-mindedly pursuing your dream. You feel like an impostor (see: Impostor Syndrome), comparing yourself to some illusory talent who is tirelessly working on her craft 20 hours a day. The voice telling you that is pretty great at setting up false binaries.
You’re probably doing better than you think. The sheer amount of talented, productive people despairing over the Onion article should tip you off to the idea that none of us really have the ideal time we’d like to dedicate to the projects we want. Most of those indie rock bands you love got to where they were while working tiring day jobs. Some of them still do, you just don’t know about it (see Stereogum’s column, Quit Your Day Job.) An endless number of esteemed writers work(ed) day jobs and wrote when they could.
All the difference is in discipline and managing your time and schedule properly. This involves a whole bunch of grown-up, adult skills that blogs such as this one will be able to help you with. Figuring out that you should take a short nap after work to recharge your levels, or that you need a quick meditation session, or that you should get to work as soon as the kid is put to bed, will go a long way toward approaching that canvas with your full attention and energy.
Try to ignore the social media hype cycle. We live in an era where artists and writers are expected to produce new content ALL the TIME and put it out into the world immediately. If you haven’t posted something new to SoundCloud in weeks, you feel a gnawing sense that you’re not really doing anything. But this is just a symptom of our current blog-hype malaise. There’s nothing wrong with taking your damn time to create something worthy and lasting. Take 10 years if you have to. Writing 500 words a day in that novel is not insignificant, as long as you’re working on it diligently and regularly. You don’t need to put something out into the world in a month. And you don’t need to be talked about every week to be relevant. (You don’t even have to be ‘relevant.’)
Nights and weekends should give you enough time. Even with the insane amount of commitments you have. Or if they really are so insane that you don’t have even a minute of time to yourself, you might want to make some hard decisions and evaluate what you’re spending your time on. It’s important to decompress, but take a hard look at whether you’re decompressing a little or just vegging out for hours on a Drag Race marathon. Be conscious of how you spend your time. Just carving some space out of each day will have a huge impact.
There will probably be times when you’ll have to stay home working on stuff instead of, say, hitting the bars with friends. Occasional sacrifices like this may be necessary, yep. This is part of being a grownup.
Most of all, whatever, relax. Realize that the Onion article cunningly exploits your doom-laden inner voice telling you that you’ll never have the time or energy for your passion. Take a breather, think about your priorities a bit, and try to work on something interesting tonight.
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