Many writers and artists bemoan the fact that it’s hard to make a full-time living out of one’s art. Nina Revoyr says a day job can actually be a good thing: “…having a full-time job in another field can actually benefit writers in both expected and surprising ways.” She speaks from personal experience, having been a full-time COO. She cites other examples from Ted Kooser (poet laureate and insurance executive) to William Carlos Williams (poet and doctor) and Toni Morrison.
The benefits are more than financial: The sense of accomplishment can protect the artist from the emotional exposure of an art career. And when work is work, one’s art can be play.
After all, the most tried and true advice for writers is “write what you know.” If you’re good at a complex day job, you know a lot, and that can inform your writing.
Revoyr concludes: “In a time when financial stability is elusive for so many; when college teaching positions are scarce, it’s irresponsible to give our artists and writers the message that they’re giving up on their art if they have a full-time job. It isn’t an either-or. Ultimately, an artist is not defined by whether he wears a T-shirt or a suit to work; whether she’s sitting in a coffee shop at 2:00 p.m. on a weekday, or in a cubicle. An artist is defined by his or her art.”