Art vs. the Day Job | Fake it Until You Make it

Cathy Hutchison isn't an actual artist, but she plays one on the web.

One of the dangers of working your day job is that whatever function you serve 8 hours a day can begin to define you. When you spend most of your time in a world where people relate to you as a salesman, server, data entry clerk, teacher or teller all day, you can start to believe that is all you really are. And since we “leak” what is inside of us, it is likely that the way you perceive yourself influences how those around you see you too–even in your off hours.

If someone met you in a hospital and you were wearing a white coat and stethoscope around your neck and walked with an air of confidence, they would treat you like a doctor.  They wouldn’t ask to see your medical license, they would simply relate to you as doctor-patient.  The same can be true of the way you present yourself as an artist.

During this time while you are still holding down a day job to support yourself while pursuing your art, there are things you can do to “fake it until you make it” that will begin to change not only what you believe on the inside to connect with the “artist you” but in the process influence perceptions of others and possibly position you for opportunity.

Believe in yourself as an artist. A couple of months ago sitting around a table with friends, someone–knowing that Ray is a talented sketch artist–asked, “Why don’t you draw more?” Ray’s answer surprised me.  He said, “I’m not an artist. I enjoy drawing, but I don’t have that thing in me where I need to draw. Real artists create because they have to.” Chances are if you are reading this blog, the art isn’t something you do. It is something you have to do.  Own that. It is real.

Wear a white coat and stethoscope. Okay not an actual white coat and stethoscope, but whatever the equivalent is for your art.  You can keep your artist self sparked by carrying around your tools.  Not something obnoxious or flashy like having an easel on your back…in fact the props aren’t even for others–they are for you.  Having a sketchbook and pencils in a messenger bag or carrying a harmonica in your pocket can be a tactile, tangible reminder of who you are.  The ability to access that part of yourself during the day can make your artist-self more integrated.

Hang out in hospitals. Again, being metaphorical here, but a painter who spends time in art galleries or a musician who goes to concerts learns from what they see and hear.  They also heighten their odds of connecting with others in the industry.

Pretend your day-job is temporary. What would happen if you knew you would “make it” in 5 years?  Would it discourage you that it would take that long?  Would you invest the time learning new skills? Building your portfolio? The time when you are bridging life between your art and your day-job is the perfect time to try things that won’t hit the radar.  Million-dollar recording artists don’t get to tweak their styles.  They are writing and playing to the market.  People who bought Warhol when he was living wanted something that looked like a “Warhol.”  Develop your style and push the boundaries of who you are as an artist now–before you hit the radar and the market starts to drive what you do.  Not only that, but real life fuels art.  You are much more likely to have life experiences in your current circumstances that will deeply connect with people than you will riding in the back of a limosine.

Practice curiosity. Curious people are fun to be with.  They try things.  They wind up places others don’t, simply because they want to see what is down that road. Life interests them.  They are students of everything.  Curious people are rarely arrogant, because they don’t pretend to know.  They embrace the joy of finding out. If you are bored at your day job, you can fake curiosity until it becomes real.  After all, Dorothy Parker once wrote, “The cure for boredom is curiosity.  There is no cure for curiosity.”  And curious people make amazing artists.

— Cathy Hutchison

Cathy’s Art vs. The Day Job is a multi-part series:
You can read each post here:

Part 1: Free Up Resources

Part 2: Define Success and Chase It

Part 3: Do the Math

3 Responses to “Art vs. the Day Job | Fake it Until You Make it”

  1. I concur. I’ve tried writing on my phone/computer while on the clock but nothing catalyzes like actually holding a pen and pad. I also find that keeping the appearance of an artist inspires art (curiosity) in others. Mini tanks.

    joe alias d:

  2. That bit about practice curiosity is big. Curious people are fun to be around, and that quality alone can get you hired for freelance art jobs (if you want those kinds of gigs). People like to work with fun people.

    Same goes for that appearance stuff. When I started dressing like an artist to my client sites (rather than dress the way my clients did) everything got a bit easier. People kind of understood I was there for something different and they seemed to trust that I had my area of the project covered a bit more.


  3. I just stumbled this blog, and WOW! I am blown away… Frankly, just like Ray, I never looked at myself as an artist… But I am slowly changing my attitude, and your blog was is another reminder to myself… I totally agree, if I don’t see myself as an artist, no one else will! Thanks Cathy… I will keep these pointers in mind now!

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