Is the life you live always compatible with your creative self?

(French below – Français plus bas)

The desk I can afford.

The desk I can afford.

“The problem with making sensible decisions is that so is everyone else”

I’ve already struggled to find the right title. Being an artist, especially in the first few years I suppose, don’t allow you to fill your plate or pay the rent, everybody knows that. I moved from London for a reason: being able to get a part time job to work on my art the rest of the time. Although I’ve got a master’s degree in history of art, experience of working in museums and gallery and speak three languages – although my italian accent may be a bit rusted by now – I’ve never been able to find a job in the art field since I’ve left Uni, not even been called for an interview when I had the perfect profile for a work. It would have been so fulfilling though, half the time working with others’ artworks and get inspired, the other half creating. But when you spend your life wandering and don’t know anybody to introduce you to the right people (even in France, I’m born within the working class after all), well, people don’t care about your skills. I spent the past two years waitressing (in the most horrible place to work in) and selling stationnery. Both jobs are draining, frustrating, and although you fulfill your social needs (with team mates who become friends and only a very few times with customers that are more likely to treat you like a self-checkout) these jobs just kill all intellectual stimulation and inspiration. Well especially when, like me, you’re very anxious in society and very sensitive to other people’s behaviour.

I thought that staying in a customer service position would give me experience and help me to get a job I would actually enjoy. But it seems that I was wrong, and I feel stuck. Not enough time to create, too much anxiety, lose of faith in humankind and also the feeling to be feeding the capitalist machine that I can’t bear anymore… Last week, I decided to quit this secure 30 hours a week job. Because it’s not getting me anywhere. If I’m not meant to find a job up to my intellectual abilities, at least I could find something more fulfilling in terms of self-respect. Something where I’d feel useful for the community rather that making money for an elite that underpay me. And although it’s terrifying, I felt so much better since I took the decision to leave.

“Making the safe decision is dull, predictable and leads nowhere new. The unsafe decision causes you to think and respond in a way you hadn’t thought of. And that thought will lead to other thoughts which will help you achieve what you want. Start taking bad decisions and it will take you to a place where others only dream of being.”

Now please, tell me… What is your day job? How good do you feel doing it? Is it inspiring or is it just a feeding job? Does it let you time to create, to do what you love?
And have you ever been in my situation? What did you do then?

(All quotes are from Paul Arden, Whatever you think, think the opposite)


“Le problème des décisions rationnelles, c’est que tout le reste du monde les prend aussi.”

Etre un artiste, surtout les premières années j’imagine, ne vous permet pas de remplir le frigo ou de payer le loyer, et tout le monde sait ça. Je suis partie de Londres pour une raison : pouvoir travailler seulement à temps partiel et créer le reste du temps. Malgré mon master d’histoire de l’art, mon expérience dans des musées et galeries et le fait que je parle trois langues (bien que mon italien parlé soit sans doute rouillé maintenant), je n’ai jamais été capable de trouver du travail dans ma branche, ni même de décrocher un entretien quand mon profile était exactement celui recherché. Ça aurait été tellement enrichissant, pourtant, de pouvoir se laisser inspirer par l’art des autres la moitié du temps à travers mon travail et passer l’autre moitié à créer de nouvelles choses. Mais quand vous passez votre vie à vagabonder de ville en ville et que vous n’avez aucune connaissance capable de vous présenter aux “bonnes personnes” (même en France, c’est ce que ça coûte de n’être pas née dans une certaine classe sociale et c’est bien triste), eh bien tout le monde se fiche bien de vos compétences. J’ai passé ces deux dernières années à bosser en tant que serveuse (dans les pires des conditions) et vendeuse en papeterie. Ces deux boulot ont cette particualrité d’être drainants, frustrants, et même si vous remplissez vos besoins sociaux (avec vos collègues, qui deviennent des amis, et seulement à de rares exceptions avec des clients qui ont plutôt tendance à vous traiter comme une caisse automatique dans le meilleur des cas), ces jobs massacrent toute stimulation intellectuelle et toute inspiration – du moins, c’est mon cas, et c’est peut être parce que je ne suis pas confortable en société, anxieuse et très sensible au comportement des autres à mon égard, mais même.

Je pensais que garder un boulot qui me donnerait de l’expérience face au public m’aiderait à trouver un travail qui me plairait. A l’inverse, il semblerait que je me sois trompée et je me sens piégée. Pas assez de temps pour créer, trop d’anxiété, perte totale de foi en la race humaine et aussi cette impression de nourrir la machine capitaliste que je ne supporte vraiment, vraiment plus… La semaine dernière, j’ai décidé de quitter ce job sécurisé de 30 heures par semaines. Parce que ça ne me mène nulle part. Et si je ne suis pas destinée à trouver un travail à la hauteur de mes capacités intellectuelles, au moins je pourrais trouver quelque chose plus enrichissement moralement. Quelque chose où je me sentirais utile pour les autres au lieu d’un job où je ne fais qu’enrichir une élite qui me sous-paye. Et bien que ce soit aussi terrifiant, je me sens bien mieux depuis que j’ai pris la décision de partir.

“Prendre la bonne décision est faible, prévisible et ne mène nulle part. La décision risquée vous force à penser et réagir d’une façon à laquelle vous n’aviez pas pensé. Et cette réaction vous guidera vers de nouvelles réflexions qui vous amèneront à réaliser votre objectif. Commencez à prendre de mauvaises décisions vous mènera à un point où les autres seulement rêveraient d’être.”

Maintenant, dites-moi… Quel est votre travail ? Est-ce qu’il vous rend heureux, ou au moins content de vous-même ? Est-ce qu’il vous inspire ou n’est-ce qu’un job alimentaire ? Est-ce qu’il vous laisse assez de temps pour créer, pour faire ce que vous aimez ?
Et vous êtes-vous déjà trouvé dans ma situation ?

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8 thoughts on “Is the life you live always compatible with your creative self?

  1. If it helps, I did exactly the same thing before I returned to uni 6 years ago. I worked in an office, as admin staff, answering phones, making tea and coffee, greeting clients and becoming best friends with the photocopier. There was talk of me making my way up in the office world, and even maybe gaining experience as a chartered surveyor, because those were the people I worked for. I knew then that I had to quit, leave a secure wage, and go to uni and live on the breadline as a student for four years – and it paid off. Now I get to still be a student but I get paid to do it, and I get to read and study everything that I love. I have no idea if I will be successful in the future once I finish my PhD, but it’s enough for now – tomorrow’s Zanne can worry about that. Good for you, do what you love, everything else will fall into place somehow.

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  2. What a great, relatable read! I’ve always been somewhat of a maverick – to my own family despite most of them being uneducated entrepreneurs – and to the higher classes with multiple degrees and treadmill jobs. I’ve had my share of the retail and food service industries, and experienced the disheartening nature of faceless corporate interactions and the anxiety of “the customer is always right,” but my typical job history is peppered with supplemental income from other creative endeavors. I’ve always had the burning -need- to create, despite whatever money-making endeavor I’m involved in at the time. One of my first “real” jobs, as a substitute teacher, was supplemented by doing graduation portraits. Whilst working for a bistro, I kept creativity flowing by decoupaging recycled wine bottles with books and magazines to give away as gifts. When I decided to finally go to university, I would journal on the bus to pass the time. While working in retail, I began songwriting (mostly in an effort to keep the crappy corporate radio out of my head) and also began taking up piano. Before completing my Early Childhood courses, I scored a job in my field of study (I’m a preschool teacher) and being required to do arts and crafts with children was a godsend, although I’ll admit, I actually got in trouble for doing too many projects in class! Unfortunately, I live below the Bible belt here in the states, where religious oppression and indoctrination runs deep, so my goal of changing the world one child at a time is on hold before one of two things happen: I either move away to a more secular region or I bide my time with other jobs that fulfill my desire to work with children without being entrenched in their families’ creeds. Nowadays, I’m on the lookout for a part-time job involving children, while also working with my fiance who does light remodeling and construction. Painting walls a boring white has proved to be one of the more creatively inspiring jobs I’ve ever had, given that I’ve created more art in the last six months than I ever have. Turns out, I’m rather good at painting, caulking, and faux finishing and it’s opened up a new realm of creativity for me. There’s hope 🙂

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    • Ah, I had my share of jobs with kids, where I’m from it was the easy job to get as a student when you’re a female! I think I need something where I don’t really have to talk to anybody – wall painting sounds quite good by the way! – in my case I was thinking of street cleaning or any kind of actually useful job… Thanks for sharing your experience, I really appreciate that 🙂

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  3. Great subject ! Honestly I am questioning myself everyday with the same questions. My situation is different, I am a creative strategist in a design/advertising agency, so my job is very inspiring and creative. I like it because it is helping my to be more creative, to work on a concept, to make my researches… In a way, sometimes I feel like “i wanna stop everything to focus only on Art”… it might be good, but I think it is good to keep a foot in the working life for two reasons :

    – it helps you financially, sorry to be materialist on this point, but nowadays the myth of the cursed artist alone in is “cave”, working alone on is unknown masterpiece is over. Artists are on social networks, internet, make collaborations, exhibitions, performances… why would you inflict this to yourself ? I work on my Art at night and on my free days. If one day I could live with only my art, of course I will stop working.

    – my second point is more psychological : I think Art is obsessional. Well, mine, I live it like this. It is an obsession. Sometimes I have flashes when I am in a bar with friends, or at work or even making love and I need to draw/paint/ etc… I think working helps you to be “out” of this obsession. A bit of obsession is good, but not too much, I think it’s good to keep a bit your feet on the ground to remind what reality is.

    I hope my comment was useful to you, and be brave, don’t worry too much, you’re doing good !

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    • Thanks 🙂 in my case, the retail job I’m in is everything but creative. It puts me down, I feel abused all the time by both customers and my employer. I’m not against the idea of having a job, no artist can survive without one nowadays, I’m against being stuck in a job that refrains your creativity, that is so draining you’re not satisfied anymore with your creations. Everything can become frustrating and you end up unhappy… I’m glad it’s not your case and I hope I’ll get as lucky as you are in the future 🙂

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      • I understand, I have worked in retail jobs when I was younger and I completely understand you : it is blowing you mind away, and at the end of the day you’re just tired. Maybe something closer to creation will fit better to you. Harder to find than to say, I know.

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  4. Depuis 3 ans au placard , attend ma retraite au Smic, et toujours frappé d’Anathème par l’Inquisition en ce qui concerne ma Sculpture Non Conforme, y a bien pire, il faut être ” Guerrier “, mais a partir d’un certain âge les armes s’émoussent, je m’inquiète plus pour mes 3 enfants …!!!

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