I think we all know which option I chose–working really hard for myself. But the problem of how to support oneself while working in the arts isn’t new. I’ve been asked how I do it, and while every writer’s path is different, I do have some experience in getting from point A to point Full Time Writer.
There are a few different options on how to do this:
- Work a steady, full-time job and do your artistic endeavors in the evenings and weekends. The benefits to this option include health insurance, a regular flow of money through your bank account, and significantly less worry about your future. The cons include the fact that you use your best energy on a job that you have probably grown to hate because it sucks you away from your first love, the artistic endeavor.
- Work a steady, part-time job and do your artistic endeavors in the rest of your time. The benefits of this option include more time to work on your art, a regular flow of less money going through your bank account, and a real dedication to make your art start paying already. The cons include a lack of health insurance and people’s tendency to mistake your part-time job as your career identity.
- Apply yourself fully to your artistic career. Once you’ve done Option 2 for a little while and you’re making enough off of your artistic endeavor, you can quit the part-time job and be a full-time writer/painter/juggler/whatever. Quite honestly, it all comes down to how much you think you need to live comfortably! And that’s a personal line. The pros are that you are finally fulfilling your dreams and can say, “I’m a ___” with complete confidence when people ask what you do. Because they always follow up with, “No, I mean, what do you do for money?” The cons are that you are now floating all of your financial needs with your artistic income that can be very irregular. So that big check doesn’t buy you anything special–it goes straight into the bank for the lean periods that you know are coming. But worth it–so worth it!
- Marry someone willing to provide a steady full-time income while you provide the fluctuating full-time income off your artistic endeavor. This works very nicely, and the pros are probably obvious. The cons are that people start trying to do the math to figure out if you actually make a full-time income, or if you’re making it all up. Because who actually knows how much a writer/painter/juggler/whatever makes? Not them! And in the eyes of people you probably don’t like anyway, you might lose some credibility. But since you don’t pursue your artistic endeavor to impress the skeptics, this probably doesn’t matter.
So these are the realistic options for supporting yourself on your artistic income (as I see it.) Am I missing any options?
How would you make it work?