As I’m considering hopping off the 9-5 bandwagon and leaning towards making my art/facilitation/producing/teaching/curating prowess the center of my world, fear came for my life! So, in my attempt to calm my nerves I asked some of the folks out there who do this on a regular basis.
The response was inspiring:
“My mentor told me if it is my job, I need to be working at it full-time and sometimes overtime.” -Amber Flame, Oakland Poetry Slam Slammaster
“In corporate world no one cares what you have going on internally. They will work you to death if you let them. I took a break (with the very generous financial support of friends and family) then decided I never wanted to feel that way again.” -Briq House, Founder and Producer of the Sunday Night Suga Shaq
“ I’m only able to make this lifestyle sustainable by full understanding my financial and emotional needs and making sure they come first.” -Jehan Osanyin, Founder of Earthseed
The stories that emerged were heartfelt and hilarious:
“I was working at a Wells Fargo in my mid-twenties (2005-ish) and Mahogany L. Browne was here in Seattle on tour. I asked about touring and expressed something similar to the question you’re asking here. She said this to me – ‘how many hours a week do you spend writing/teaching poetry?’ My answer then was about 10-15, then she asked ‘how many hours a week you work at that bank’ my answer was well…40. She looked me dead in the eye serious and said ‘so you’re a banker, not a poet’ That was it for me.” –Matt Gano, Co-Founder of the Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Program
Some remembered what it felt like to work the 9-5 grind:
“My day job was killing me. It stood in complete contrast to my artistic and poetic and even my ethical self.” -Bryan Borland, Editor of Sibling Rivalry Press
Others were practical and you know artists need practical steps sometimes:
“when you take that leap you have a pot of money to cushion you.” -J. Mase, Founder of awQwerd
“I suggest a financial transitionary period. If you have regular income, KEEP IT COMING. It’s tough to be creative when you don’t know where your next paycheck is coming from.“-Cecily Schular, Union Square Slam Slammaster
No matter the advice, it all came down to three things:
- Trust your gut.
- Have a plan.
- JUST DO IT.