If you’re a creative person, the likelihood is that you have a creative dream that you would like to fulfil. There’s something you love to do that you wish you could do all the time. However, the reality is that the dream doesn’t pay the bills and you end up working a “regular job”. This is the experience of most creative people. Artists, singers, musicians, actors, you name it, can all tell stories of having to work in restaurants, factories, hotels and the like to survive while they pursue the thing that they really want to do. There is nothing wrong with these jobs but for creative people, it’s not what they want to be doing. My purpose with this blog post is twofold. To share my experience to encourage others in a similar position and to offer some tips on how to approach the idea of pursuing your dream while working a full-time job.
Dealing With The Negative
We’ve all heard that success story. You know the one about that person who quit their day job and took a chance at pursuing their dream only to become a huge success. People are always quick, and perhaps rightly so, to heap praise on such an individual. Not everyone who quit their job has that experience though. A lot of people, for a number of reasons, fail. People don’t talk about this group as much and if they do, they are called fools for taking that chance in the first place. Then there is another group. Those who decide to stay in their day job and still pursue their dream at the same time. This group is even less spoken of and is often viewed negatively. Mostly, I should point out, by the people in the group.
I recently asked a question in the Facebook group Traditional Animation. I asked for a quick idea of how many animators in the group are working on substantial personal projects while working a full-time job. Here’s a look at the results.
I got over 100 reactions and comments. Quite a lot of creative people are working full-time jobs while at the same time trying to create their own project. All of the responses were positive. In the sense that people were excited to be working on their own projects. At the same time, most of the folks who responded said that it was an extremely difficult task. One user likened the experience to “Squeezing the last bit of toothpaste out of a tube.” Yet another likened the task to Sisyphus.
He was a king in Greek mythology who, as punishment for his craftiness, was condemned to roll a giant boulder up a hill only for it to roll down when it nears the top. A task he had to repeat for all eternity. To this day his experience is used to describe tasks that are both arduous and pointless. This is how most people who embark upon this journey describe how they feel about it. It’s a very difficult thing to do and at times seems pointless.
Yet, all those who described pursuing your dream with a full-time job as difficult, also acknowledged that they were doing it anyway. Not because it made any sense, but because of their passion to create. One person even said they would go crazy if they were not creating their own project. I’ve said it before.
When you have a burning desire to create, you find a way to make it happen.
This is how we initially overcome the negative. With passion. Without it, anyone trying to work on their personal creation and be committed to a full-time job would before long throw in the towel. The passion drives us. I say us because I am also a part of this group.
Those who have been following us for some time know that my wife Dixie Ann and I have been working on Celflux for about six years. We started in 2013 with the publication of Celflux issue no. 1. The project has since grown to include an Animated short/series. In 2018 we launched an Indiegogo Campaign to help fund the animated short. The funds would have helped us get more people on board and finish the project quicker.
We only got 10 backers. We love our backers and we’re grateful to them but our campaign was unsuccessful. Did that mean that we should cancel our plans to make the animated series? No. We could not. So I decided to go the other route. I was able to get myself a job and I continued working on the project alongside 8.00-4.30 commitment. I was fortunate enough to get a good job in the field of design. So I am not far removed from exercising my creativity.
I’ll say this much. It’s a challenge. It is not easy. Your time is not your own and your project takes second place to all your other commitments. I can sum it up in one word. “Frustration”. You feel a sense of frustration not being able to create as you would like. Therefore, your project moves slowly and other projects are completed ahead of yours. Despite all this, you work when you can and do what you can. Let me share with you a few things that I try to do to help me pursue my dream while working full time.
5 Tips To Help You Pursue Your Dream While Working A Full-Time Job
These tips are meant as a guide. They are not a formula. They do not guarantee success. They are not hard and fast rules. I myself do not follow all of them all the time. These tips, if practised, can help improve your chances of success.
1. Picture Your Boss as A Backer.
Because your job takes up most of your time and keeps you from working on your personal project, it’s easy to start resenting your job. However, it helps to remember without your job you would not be able to pursue your dream in the first place. It’s a matter of adopting the right mindset. Gratitude rather than grievance. Others have Kickstarter and Indiegogo backers. You have your job. It’s a lot less sexy but just as important. The income you gain from your job helps you take care of your commitments so you can work on your dream.
2. Manage Your Time.
It goes without saying that time management is fundamentally important when trying to pursue your dream. With your job and other responsibilities taking up most of your time you will have less of it to dedicate to your project. So you will have to manage your time effectively. This might mean less Netflix, fewer parties, or as in my case less gaming. Basically, you may have to give up something that you enjoy regularly and reallocate that time to your project. Dedicate the time and stick to it.
3. Manage Your Money.
The same thing applies to your money. You have to ensure that you manage your money in such a way that the pursuit of your dream does not affect your other commitments. Again, this may mean you have to give up a few things. What’s more important to you, that guilty pleasure or your project? If you are not that good with money, like me, they learn. Or find someone who can help you manage your money. I’m lucky that Dixie Ann is an accountant by profession. So she is the one that does the budget and lets me know what I can spend on Celflux. Or if I need something for Celflux she knows what we can cut back on to make it happen.
4. Set Realistic Goals.
We have a saying in Trinidad. “Don’t hang yuh hat where yuh hand cyah reach”. It speaks about living above your means or trying to do something beyond your ability. In pursuing your dream be realistic. Don’t set goals that you know you won’t be able to accomplish. If you do you will become frustrated when you don’t reach those goals. Assess yourself honestly, know your limitations, recognize your capabilities and set goals accordingly. They can be short term or long term but they must be realistic.
5. Get Rest.
Finally, rest is the most important thing. You are not superhuman. Don’t try to burn the candle at both ends. Burnout is a real thing. Working on a project while working a full-time job can sometimes seem like working two jobs. Sleep deprivation can lead to serious health issues like depression and heart disease. Some of them irreversible. As great as your dream is, it’s not worth your health. Sure you might sleep less, but be sure to get enough sleep. Balance your hard work with sufficient rest.
So it’s not only possible to pursue your dream while working a full-time job, it’s possible to do it without it killing you in the process. Don’t let anyone look down on you and more importantly believe in yourself. When you complete your project that would be a reward in itself and who knows what doors it will open up for you. Wishing all the folks out there pursuing their dream much success.
Till next time.
Everard is the Creative Director and CEO of GemGfx. GemGfx is a multidisciplinary design consultancy based in Trinidad and Tobago. He has been involved in the field of Graphic Design for over 14 years. He is also the art director and co-author of the graphic novel Celflux which he created along with his wife Dixie Ann Archer-McBain.