Friday, July 4, 2008

Surviving the Day Job

(cross posted on Modern Myth Makers)

There is no money in the arts. I discovered that fact a long time ago. Knowing such truth though -- like being an artist -- does nothing to pay the bills. Therefore, creative souls usually end up indenturing themselves to a day job of some form. The lucky few will find jobs that feed their creativity, but most of us spend our 40 something hours a week cultivating a cube farm. Others find themselves hunched up in front of a cramped desk in a closed room, whose windows give a grand view of the hallway. We live our lives surrounded by dirty-grey walls and lumpy, commercial-grade Berber carpet. The day job begins to overtake our personalities and sap our creativity. We feel trapped. Here are a few simple suggestions to help you remind yourself that yes, you are a human, not a secretary (or a business analyst).

Say it with a smile
You can get away with venting a lot spleen if you make a joke out of it. Emotional outbursts that might frighten the calmest cube dweller can be fully vented if accompanied by a grin. In fact, the more severe the outburst, the more willing your audience will be to allow it, because they will think you are exaggerating for their amusement. For example, you can tell your coworkers that the light from your monitor is burning a hole in your corneas. This may be true, but no one will notice if you laugh while you say it. Or, you can inform your boss that you will not live through the project she has assigned you (to make your complaint even more acceptable, describe the mode of your impending death in all it's gory detail), and if you season your woes with a pleasant lilt to your voice, she will not feel it necessary to fire you.

Embrace your gremlins
For the past three months, I have been working on three massive data entry projects for my boss. Two of the projects are copying books of data in order to save my boss's boss money by not buying the electronic copies from the people who compiled the books in the first place. I have learned through this process of time-altering boredom to enjoy the database gremlins who visit me every day. Don't get me wrong, I don't enjoy the databases themselves. That would be creative suicide. No, I enjoy the gremlins. They have such interesting personalities. There's Fred, Ned, Gred, Jed, and Alphonso. At first, I was kind of weirded out by the giant vacuum cleaners with which they suck my soul, but now I have come to appreciate the grems for their great senses of humor. Gred likes to stick the vacuum hose up his fat nostril and suck his head inside out. It makes a great party trick. Playing with the gremlins in your head makes the day just fly by.

Take notes
Office workers are amusing creatures. They have intense emotional connections to the strangest objects. I have witnessed the extremes during my time haunting offices -- It varies from wild cursing over a paper jammed in the copier to wild elation over the arrival of purple highlighters. I understand that no one likes a paper jam and purple highlighters are admittedly very cool, but the often violent reactions they engender can be food for survival of the creative soul. You get that many people trying to work together on mostly mundane and meaningless tasks and exciting stuff is bound to happen. When it does, write it down. You'll be able to look back and laugh about it when you finally quit your day job.

Got any more ideas for day job survival?

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