Lately I’ve been meeting some very creative, artistic people who have found a way to build a life with a sound financial foundation. Not easy. We all hear of the struggling artists, many of whom have day jobs that pay the bills, but are boring. But last week, while attending a writers conference, I had the good fortune of meeting creative people who have wisely set their lives up to support their creative side with a practical career.
Their day job financially fuels their passion for creative expression and provides another outlet for their intelligence:
Melissa’s Story. Melissa is a published poet whose work is represented in several noted anthologies. She has also self published several volumes of poetry. Her work, honestly, is not too accessible for me, but in her circles she is well respected and sought after. Her poetry has not yielded a big income. In fact, the self publishing can be costly. But Melissa is one smart cookie! As she completed her MFA in Creative Writing she saw the writing on the wall that lucrative careers in poetry were, well, they were NOT. So she thought long and hard about the kind of life she wanted and realized she had other interests and capabilities that could be developed into a financially secure, if not wealthy, career. She decided to become a librarian and with her good grades and low income, she was admitted on partial scholarship to a master’s degree program in library science.
Fast Forward, degree completed, she is now a librarian and doing quite satisfying work. Naturally she has set up a poetry group in her area, and she is also teaching creative writing and poetry at a local community college in the evenings. Yes, Melissa found a way to use both her creative side, fueled by a challenging and interesting day job that allows her the comfort of a fairly good living. Melissa told me that during her undergraduate years she worked as a waitress and did retail sales but found that work dreary and soul crushing. She persevered to find a way to address both her artistic and practical sides.
Debbie’s Story. Debbie just retired after 30 years in law enforcement as a sergeant and trainer. She said her path was a somewhat unusual one. Back in high school her favorite classes were history, creative writing and physical education. Yes, she was an intellectual, creative jock who had a passion for both law enforcement and writing! Her good fortune was having a counselor at the high school who encouraged her to pursue it all. He cautioned her that she might not be able to have it all at one time, but that she could build a life that allowed her to have full expression of her talents and passions throughout a long life. He suggested that while she was in high school she apply for an internship with the local police department and also work on her writing both in school and with a local writer’s group.
She took all of her counselor’s advice and ended up being recommended for the police cadet program directly after high school. In the evenings she took creative writing classes at the local junior college. I met her at the point of completing her 30 years in law enforcement and now having a full pension. In her late 50s now she is devoting all her time to completing a novel and a screen play, and wants to get them published and produced. She also has a couple of grandchildren she spends time with and yes, she encourages them to be all they can be, in all areas of life!
Andy’s Story. Andy is a young man in college, pursuing an accounting degree. He is also a fantasy, science fiction writer whose imagination is enormous! He grew up reading lots of science fiction, graphic novels and playing fantasy video games. He’s in that new world of virtual reality, VR. But he also has a very practical side. Both his parents are teachers and he saw that it was not easy to make a living and provide for their four children. They both have artistic passions and the need for creative expression, too. One is a painter and one is a sculptor and they encouraged him and his siblings in all areas of learning. They were excellent role models.
Andy knew he loved math and art and actually did an internship in a CPAs office in his town. He realized it was fun to couple his day job of numbers and on weekends and evenings he wrote and created in the outer universe of fantasy! Andy’s now well on his way to becoming a CPA by day and a fantasy writer by night.
Society tells you that you can’t have it all. But maybe, just maybe ,you can creatively and practically find a way to defy that limitation.
Many creative people are very smart, and they often need the kind of wise guidance that you just read about. They need to discover ways to make a living in jobs or professions that are not deadening to their spirit.
I like the idea of reaching for the stars while keeping a firm footing on the ground. In other words, find a way to express your heart and soul while finding a way to pay those bills
May your creative side reach for the stars, and may your practical side give you firm footing,