Thursday, September 17, 2009

Myth #5: You need a day job to support your art

In the closing lines of my one man show, The Neon Man and Me, I reflect on my life and say, “So now, after 134 jobs in 8 different states, in two different countries, I’m home, to be, as my best friend said, amongst my people.” It took me almost a year of performing the show to finally hear the number “134” as if someone one else were speaking it to me. I’ve never bothered to measure myself against others, but I’m sure the number of day jobs I’ve held in order to pursue my creative passions can’t be all that big when compared to other artists who’ve kept menial jobs or even entrepreneurs who seem to be driven toward their own private sense of accomplishment.

For instance, when I first started performing my one man show, “The Neon Man and Me,” I took on a day job as an upholsterer at my family’s furniture business. Having the day job took the pressure off me to continually fill a venue to pay my bills. I wanted to build a fan base and let the show grow without any pressure. The decision paid off.  “The Neon Man and Me,” eventually won awards, took me off-Broadway and became a PBS special. In the early days I could barely fill a forty seat community center, whereas now I feel confident renting out a black box with a couple hundred seats. And yes, I eventually quit my day job.

The reality is that unless you are working with some numbers written down on a piece of paper comparing your expenses each month to your income, you really have no idea if you need a day job to support your art. Success changes for each artist and is relative to the goals and objectives he is working toward. Besides, you may need to keep a day job for the social aspect, or because you crave the structure of a routine. The truth is, like anything related to art and life, a day job is a choice and the choice to work at one or not is always a choice under your control.

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