Bad Day Job vs. Good Day Job: What’s Better for an Artist?

So after blogging regularly while I was on a 2-week vacation from my job, reality once again set in when I returned to work last week. I quickly realized that taking time to blog moved way down the priority list. Just getting through the work day with enough energy to work on my new film; after cooking dinner, responding to personal e-mails and spending time with my girlfriend, was going to be ambitious, let alone blogging. I knew making this new movie was going to be challenging in many ways, but one of the biggest challenges is going to be balancing work on my new film with work at a day job that I actually like. And that got me thinking: what is better for an artist's career? A "good" day job that you enjoy, or a "bad" day job that you don't care about?

 

Let me back up for a second. In my experience, many artists, especially "indie" artists (don't get me started on the definition, again), have to work a side job/day job to make ends meet, especially to make enough money to invest in their careers. Often times these are bartending jobs, waiter/waitress jobs, teaching, etc.

I experienced this first hand while making my first movie. I was working 4 days/week at a college bookstore. It was good money, but was totally unfulfilling. Luckily there was a lot of down time at that job, so I spent most of it working on my movie.

Fast forward to today. I work as a Program Director at a cultural center (the St-Ambroise Center), which was founded by Montreal micro-brewery McAuslan Brewing. We mainly program folk music shows, but also film screenings and workshops for artists. For a guy who loves folk music and is a filmmaker, it's a pretty good gig. It's a lot of work, and I often do countless hours of overtime, but it is rewarding at the end of the day. On top of that, I also have a great boss who gives me as much freedom as I need to run the place (what to program, who to hire, where to spend money, etc.), and my coworkers are awesome.

So unlike the unfulfilling day job I had during my first movie, where I was doing the bare minimum of what needed to get done so I could work on my own projects, my current job requires my full attention (and then some). Which I happily give, but it often leaves me with very little spare time, and more to the point, very little spare energy to put into personal projects.

What do you think? As an artist, if you have to work a day job to make ends meet, would you rather work a job that is totally unfulfilling? Or would you prefer a day job that you enjoy and that gives you some sense of fulfillment?

I know that I'm happier now than I was when I was working at that old job, but I'm also aware that I won't have the luxury of working on my new movie while at my current job. So I'll have to manage my time more efficiently this time around to stay on top of deadlines, that's for sure.

I've already taken a step in what I hope is the right direction, by reducing my hours from 40 hours/week (full-time) to 28 hours/week. The plan is to use those extra 12 hours each week to work on the new film and keep somewhat of a balance in my life with health, family, friends and my relationship. We'll see how it goes...

Cheers,

Dave

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