All working artists have some parts of their individual creative processes that they don’t particularly like. This isn’t unique to artists alone. Everyone who works a job has parts of those jobs that they don’t like doing. What usually pulls a person through the bad parts of work, is the reward of the good parts work process. When the bad parts of job outweigh the good parts of a job, it can make a person completely miserable.
Good and bad are subjective terms though. How an individual navigates between the two in the realm of employment is a matter of personal wants, needs and motivations.
There are some jobs in my past that weren’t fantastic, but I managed to find the enjoyment in certain portions of the job. I don’t think of myself as a super-positive kind of person either. What got me to the point in which I could find those positive aspects of those previous jobs was more or less due to my individual personality, coupled with the job I was being asked to perform.
While I was in art school, I had quite a few work study jobs. My personal favorite was working within the public library system. I worked at several branches, including the big, beautiful main library in Indianapolis Indiana. While at the main library, I worked in the stacks and in the periodicals reading room. I also worked for the Visual Arts Devision where they loaned out art prints, video cassettes, music, films and projectors.
Organizing and shelving were the biggest parts of my jobs. These tasks weren’t exactly fun. They were very repetitive. These jobs allowed my creative mind to do as it pleased while I organized, shelved and stacked books and magazines. Quick sketches and notes could be made while I worked at the library. My job wasn’t exciting, but it was a stable paycheck. And the majority of the people I worked with were very nice.
Clerical Temp Work:
The first time that I started working for a clerical temp agency was while I was in my early 20’s. I was still living in Indianapolis Indiana. There was something that I wanted to buy, and I needed some extra money I think. Anyway, I phoned a few temp agencies and settled on the one that offered its temps free computer training lab time. At that time, I was only familiar with Macintosh computers. I took full advantage of the free computer lab! The more proficient I was, the better-paying my job assignments were.
Temp work isn’t exciting. I answered a lot of phones. Filed millions on papers. Delivered tons of mail. Took hundreds of food orders. Organized millions of file systems. Entered trillions of data points into spreadsheets. Again, I could kind of let my creative mind wander, and quickly sketch or write things down that I wanted to remember.
I learned a lot during these clerical temp jobs. Not only skills that I could apply to future employment, but also things that eventually became part of my teaching practice. Some skills I continue using in my personal and professional life as a working entrepreneurial artist. Every item that I have for sale in my shop is in an Excel spread sheet, with all kinds of information that I might need for my business plans, taxes and such.
Plant Nursery Work:
For a summer between my first and second year in art school, I worked at plant nursery. I had a super-easy going supervisor who left me alone most of the time. The place that you see in the link looks so much different than when I was employed there so many years ago! For a time, I worked only on the watering and moving around of plants that were on a lot adjoining the main store. Sometimes I would be pulled in to help unload a truck too. I learned to hate junipers there. Especially those low-to-the-ground creeping ones. You wants rats? Plant a bunch of those. They’re rat starter homes.
At some point I was moved into the main store building and worked in the produce section. I didn’t like my supervisor in the produce section. We clashed a bit. I once saw him taking a bunch of boxes of Brach’s Candies out to refill the Pick-n-Mix display. He had a single razor blade to open the boxes. Not a box cutter like the rest of us had. I told him he should be careful or he’d cut himself. No attention was paid to me, other than some rolled eyes and some muttering about me being a girl I think. Two minutes later he came fast-walking back to the produce department holding his hand at a odd angle. Apparently, he’d slashed his palm open and needed to go to the hospital. I was told by him, “Not one word.”
With both of these different jobs within the same business, my creative brain could just wander off and do its own thing. Mostly while the bumblebees bonked into my head as I watered the plants and shrubs.
Secretary and Receptionist Work:
This kind of work was different than clerical temp work. For one, it was full-time employment. The clerical temp work I had done previously was training for being a full-time, benefits-getting secretary and receptionist. This kind of work was a bit more stable than a temp job. I was also good enough at my job to gain raises and have a department of higher-ups in a company that looked out for me.
One of these jobs was with a regional grocery store chain in the southwest. I started out as a secretary in the grocery merchandising department. I had around eight people who were “my guys” (even though there was one female manager) that I worked for. They were kind and generous to me. I always thought that I was spoiled rotten by them, as well as the food company reps that were always coming and going in the office.
Of all my secretarial jobs. I loved that one the most. I felt needed, wanted and totally appreciated by the entire department of people. Most of the secretaries within the company had one or two people that they “took care of”. I had more than double that number. There was a certain amount of pride I took in that too. It was hard to leave that job when the time came.
And guess what? Even though this secretarial job had a lot of moving parts, and could at time be so busy and complicated, my creative mind would still find time to slip away. This was especially true after I had been in the job for a few months. I knew when I could coast on auto pilot to complete a task.
What’s the Takeaway?
The aforementioned jobs I’ve had are not the totality of the jobs I’ve had in my life. There are so many more. I didn’t talk about food service, graphic design, illustration, teaching, freelance or photo jobs. Perhaps the reason I started talking about the jobs that I did is because they aren’t the kinds of jobs that most people see as “good” jobs.
In all of these jobs, I found a way to be creative and to learn new skills that would help me later on down the road. Not all the parts of these jobs were great, but I was able to find the bits that were good. I’m a maladaptive daydreamer. I’m an autotelic personality. I’m in my groove with repetitive motion. I’m pretty much self-contained and self-entertaining at any time of the day or night.
I’m not the type of person who wants to climb the corporate ladder. Making tons and tons of money isn’t my main goal either. As long as my basic needs are taken care of and I have money for more art supplies, I feel like I’m doing pretty well. Don’t get me wrong, bringing in more money would be nice. I don’t want to sound like, “Oh! I don’t NEED money! It makes everything HORRIBLE! I’m SO PURE and WHOLESOME!” What I mean is, “Why do I need a house with four bedrooms and three bathrooms? Why do I need two cars? Hell. Why do I need a car?”
I think the word I’m looking for is lagom. A Swedish word meaning, ‘moderate’ or ‘just enough’.
Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Monday.