I have listened to the first four episodes of Make/Work, a podcast from The Rumpus on how artists of all stripes have learned how to make a living while making their art. I’m enjoying the soft-spoken, slightly prickly style of the host/interviewer Scott Pinkmountain.
Since I left my last job in May, I’ve been able to devote most of my time to writing my second novel. I get no money for these efforts. I’ve been lucky to have a financial cushion and a generously supportive partner to make these three and a half months of no paid employment possible. I’m a week away now from finishing the first draft, and I couldn’t have gotten here so fast without this unstructured time. It won’t last forever, and Make/Work has made me think about how I will earn money after this unpaid sabbatical.
I like money. It’s useful. But I don’t have a great relationship with it. In past jobs, I have been crappy at creating defined boundaries between me and work demands. I like to do my best at whatever I’m doing, and usually that means I put a lot of thought, effort, and worry into my work. I get disproportionally wrapped up in the expectations of my boss and coworkers. Some of those expectations are real, some of them are what I imagine I’m supposed to be doing. At the end of the day, I’m wrung out and riddled with anxieties. Writing and art are the first things to suffer when I get like that. All I want to do is watch Netflix and drink whiskey.
I’m afraid of looking for a new job.
I’m equally afraid of not looking for a new job, having no money, and getting my responsible adult card revoked (that may have already happened- I’ll check with my parents and get back to you).
The best thing would be if some publisher decided to pay me for the novels I write. Until that glorious day, what do I do for money? Work an undemanding, uninteresting job only for the cash? Or find a job that actually feeds and supports my creative impulses and also doesn’t suck me dry? (This is assuming I can find any kind of work anywhere in the current market.)
What to do and how much to do it are the critical questions, but I don’t know how to overcome the fear of answering them wrong yet again. I’ll have to figure it out if I want to build a sustainable life as a writer.
Maybe episode five on Make/Work will save me.