Jun 28, 2012

Thoughts on The Artist In The Office

I don't usually review books. This is for two reasons... 1. I devour books very fast and seldom look back. 2. The things in a particular book that would stick out as valuable to me do not strike me as seeming valuable to the masses. This said, I sometimes do a short write-up on GoodReads or LibraryThing.

I was in the college library earlier in the week, where I work, and I came across a book called The Artist in the Office: How to Creatively Survive and Thrive Seven Days a Week by Summer Pierre. I checked it out. Since it deals with creative issues, I figured I'd put down some of my thoughts on the book.

First off, it’s pretty short, simple, and nothing in this book really blew my mind (i.e. almost all the ideas were commonsense or covered in other books). I read the whole thing in two hours.

Summer Pierre is a multi-disciplinary artist (musician, writer, illustration). In this book she, instructs readers that, despite a day job, you can fuel your creativity during the day rather than feel like you're drowning in tedium.

She offers lots a small ideas and tasks such as using your lunch break to visit a museum or making a luxury coffee out of the normal stuff you find in an office kitchen.

The big idea of the book is something I'd already stumbled onto on my own years ago... that if you consider yourself an artist, you are always an artist. You don't stop being an artist when you go to work. This shift in perspective is huge and if someone has never thought about it before, this book could potentially change someone's life. Pierre calls it simply working two jobs... your day job and your art. But YOU don't change.

The book also made me really think about my day job(s). I like having a day job. I just don't like all the day jobs I've had. My current one, as an Adjunct College Teacher of Film Appreciation, is great. It fulfills the several things I really look for in a day job...

1. It pays fairly. Not a lot, mind you, but enough for me to cover rent and gas for my car and such. I've learned to liver close to the vest. And getting rich doing what I do is a pipe dream.

2. It anchors my time. I have something to work around. And part-time is awesome. I've been left to my own devices in the past and with a completely open schedule, I'll over-work and burn out.

3. It offers interaction with the world. It makes me leave the house and participate in the daily grind. 

4. It doesn't come home with me. Well... much. Since I've developed the curriculum already and know what I'm teaching, I can spend very little time outside the job preparing for the job. That thought time is valuable. It can be creatively used.

But I've been a waiter, a barista, a temp, a hay-hauler, children's theatre actor, truck-unloader, high school teacher, a librarian and lots of other things and I used to really resent these jobs. Over the years, I became very prickly towards authority. Not feeling owned or controlled became a priority. I grew to have hair-trigger resentment through some jobs. It always depends on the job, I guess.

The last section of the book centers on how we look at money, frugality vs. luxury and mapping out what our ideal lives would look like. it is kinda like THE ARTIST’S WAY mixed in with 4 HOUR WORK WEEK and STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST. 

Before it was a full-fledged book, it was a ‘zine, and that shows in the presentation of the book. Lots of illustrations and quotes and such.

[click on an image to see it larger]

I'd recommend this book to myself - five years ago. Back when Younger Brad was suffering through soul-sucking jobs and wondering if he'd ever get to finally create the glorious ideas rolling around in his head, this book would have hit like a lightning bolt.

Summer Pierre has a neat website, complete with interviews from other artists with day jobs.

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