“Quarter million a year, and that don’t bounce”

That’s from “Untouchable,” when Pusha T talks about working as the president of Ye’s record label GOOD Music. His boast was in the salary he’d be earning working in a powerful role at a cutting edge record label, and not relying on the fickle income of music and the struggle of staying relevant in an accelerating news cycle. He could make art without worrying about money. (Pusha has since also written a diss track for Arby’s.)

It’s Push who comes to mind when I read Fadeke Adegbuyi’s piece on what she calls the everyday creator, defined as, “Individuals working 9-to-5 jobs while spending early mornings, evenings, and weekends as influencers on TikTok, personalities on YouTube, streamers on Twitch, writers on Substack, and podcasters broadcasting to your favorite audio feeds.” Sure, it’s not the glamorous path, but it’s a much steadier one, and it enables the artist to keep having fun and to focus on the art. If it flops? No problem, the job will pay for it.

A couple of years ago, I’d quit my job and wanted to become a full-time writer. It didn’t turn out as I’d hoped (“We can’t all be Nas”). In fact, I felt like it was a failure, and I was a failure. My dwindling savings were part of the equation, but it just really wasn’t fun for me. The time pressure, the expectations of my creative work, it all made writing such a chore. 

The feeling is the complete opposite now. My writing still makes me money, but I’m not dependent on it; I’m free to write whatever I want to write. If I want to start a WordPress blog (like it’s 2005 all over again), and write daily, and not write clickbait-y headlines, I can do that. 

It’s what Push talks about when he says he has the luxury of time to work slowly on his music; unhurried discipline is the key ingredient. It’s also a shift away from the obsession with commerce. Beth Pickens writes, “Your art is already doing a lot for you. Can you consider the radical proposal that even if your work never pays you, it will still be a valuable and integral part of your life, for the rest of your life? What if your art gives you life and your employment pays for that life?” And lastly, Derek Sivers, “Do something for love and something for money. Don’t try to make one thing satisfy your entire life.”

A year or so after that, I started working with clients like Wealthsimple at my editorial studio again. A couple of weeks after that, I signed a full-time job working as an editorial director. And I signed a deal with Holloway to expand and revise my book. I said this to Mic, “My writing habit is alive and well and I have been able to balance it out with a full-time job. I also had a moment of clarity—I thought succeeding as an author meant doing it full-time, or at least without a full-time job, and I was totally wrong.”

There’s a sense of poetic completion in that Creative Doing, which was originally entitled There Is No Right Way to Do This, was a very honest examination into the creative process for creative hobbyists, or to use Adegbuyi’s term, everyday creators. I wanted to enable people who were working full-time, but weren’t creating yet, to know that it was an option for them. They didn’t have to quit their jobs and make a big leap in order to start; they could start small. I interviewed Big Mike, a visual artist who works as a manager of a hairstylist, and Michelle Kuo, an author who works as a professor. There are now 75 prompts in Creative Doing, each one is designed to spark ideas and action.

It’s becoming clearer that we shouldn’t only look for an answer at work. We don’t need the perfect job; just one where we’re treated with respect, keeping with our values, and doing a good job. We can build up other parts of our life, like our creative practice, outside of work. In a way, we’ll all be multi-hyphenates, or as Scott Belsky calls it, polyamorous careers. One job for money. One craft for creative fulfillment. 

If you’re working at a full-time job, check out this excerpt I published in Fast Company that features an interview with Grammy-winning DJ Dahi. If you like it, you can learn more about Creative Doing here!

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