For those of you who are looking for the creative stars–who want to direct a feature film, write the great American novel, create the ultimate app or turn the world upside down– at the start of your career, that’s all you can think of. But before long, the growing need to pay our bills is screaming at us like a mad zombie.
A privileged few never have to face this problem as their talent, timing, resources, wealthy parents, working spouse, or other perks open the door for them to pursue their dream from day one. For others, it happens years later, after a slowdown in initial success, shifts in culture or industry shifts, and stalled careers. For me and for many others, the need arose right away because I got married right after college. I was starting my creative career, but I also needed to start a house and a family.
Whatever moment comes to you, know this: There is no shame in a day job.
Understand that I admire people who are willing to live on bread and water to make their dreams come true. I have an actor friend who decided he didn’t want a gig next door, so he cut back on his lifestyle to allow him to achieve his goals. He drives an old car, owns an old cell phone, and lives in a studio in a poor part of town, but this financial freedom allows him to spend his days auditioning, meeting agents, and posing as an actor. .
On the other hand, having a gig next door can ease the pain a bit and give you some breathing space when it comes to your dream. For a number of years, I taught a class at UCLA on how to make a living while waiting for your big break, and it was always packed.
Maybe you are selling real estate next door, producing videos for your church, teaching at a local college, or writing stories for magazines or websites. My advice is that whatever it is, try to make it an offshoot of your dream, so that at least you still develop your craft. For example:
An actor could teach high school or college students a acting class or work in the casting.
A filmmaker could produce videos for a local church or nonprofit.
A screenwriter could develop commissioned books or writing projects.
The key is to find something that allows you to pursue your dream and develop your gifts and talents.
But the most important ? Stop feeling guilty.
A few years ago I wrote this article featuring a short list of famous writers who had day jobs. Beyond this list, you might not know that before artist Jeff Koons sold his work for millions in art auctions around the world, he was a commodities broker at Wall Street. He used this day job to fund his art in the early 1980s.
JD Salinger, who wrote “Catcher in the Rye” was a cruise ship business manager.
Before being known for “Handmaid’s Tale”, Margaret Atwood was a waitress.
Frank McCourt, author of Pulitzer’s award-winning memoir, “Angela’s Ashes,” has taught in New York City high schools and colleges throughout his career.
While writing and submitting news, Stephen King worked as a janitor, gas station attendant, and in an industrial laundry.
They weren’t ashamed and you shouldn’t be either. If you are talented enough to pursue a big dream, then you are talented enough to figure out how to pay for it.
Now to work. The world needs your dream to come true.
This article was originally published on philcooke.com.