“I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”
-Jerome K. Jerome
I work for myself—I am the boss and the employee. And so do you, but maybe you don’t know it yet.
I have to set hours for myself as the boss, and I have to work those hours as the employee. It’s though. On top of this, I have to create stuff and have vision for the future. I’m the CEO and the factory worker in the business of “me.”
And it’s exactly the same for you whether you work for someone else or not.
Your “pay the bill” activities are done by the employee, and your “creation, art, high-ROI” activities are done by the CEO in the business that is you.
We each work as the employee and the CEO to varying degrees in our lives. Some of us have a job and so the employee may get more hours because he brings in the bulk of the loot. Some of us spend less time as the employee and more of our time on our art as the CEO–the starving artist.
This is the constant struggle between the employee and the artist that we all battle. In my experience, our society is one that aims to quell the artist as a means to bring out the employee because it is more suitable for the job/career setting.
And that is a shame.
Some of you are in touch with the artist side of your being, and some of you have been stifling your creative side since middle school when “being creative” went out of fashion because it wouldn’t help you get in college.
In fact, I bet the majority of people that work for someone else in a job/career setting rarely tap into their inner artist with any kind of regularity. It’s a rare job that calls for embracing your inner artist.
“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” -Pablo Picasso
Many of you could probably say you work a lot. Most of us are always “busy” running around doing “work.” But just because you go to work for 8 hours a day does not mean you do work 8 hours. For many of you, this kind of “work” is not work at all, it’s just having a job.
Work is creation. Work is passion and intensity of focus. Work hangs on your couscous and subconscious mind. Work is making progress on that idea that you scribbled down on a napkin. Work is building something that needs to be built. Work is leaving something behind for future generations. Work is making a difference. Work is you doing what you are most excited about, and often, good at.
The right work is art. All other work is a job.
Work is progress on the things you are passionate about. Everything else is task completion, and that is called a job.
We all have work inside of us. Maybe you know exactly what your work looks like, maybe you don’t. Maybe you are secretly writing that novel in your spare time, maybe you need to start. Maybe you are still trying to figure out what your life’s work is. No matter your situation, you must find your work. You must figure out what you will leave behind.
Find your art
Your art can be anything. You are not confined to paintings, sculptures, music, or performance. Your art might be changing lives through your social work. Maybe it is planting that garden or starting that club. Your business can be your art. Coaching others to find their art might be your art. And so on.
The two variables to art are passion and creation. You can’t have one without the other.
Some of us are fortunate enough to get paid to work our art, most of us are not. Either way, we can all work our art. Monetary incentive should be an afterthought for art. Maybe one day your art will pay you, but if it doesn’t, you shouldn’t care because you are just expressing your passion and that is reward enough.
So many of you are stifling your passion and not working your art because you have let other things get in the way. And to that I say: Bollox!
I believe that working your art is necessary to living a fully actualized and happy life. It’s that freaking important. We all have passions, and we all must pursue them. This is part of being human. To repress your passions is to repress your person. You are giving up the very thing that makes you a unique individual. That makes you, you. If you give this up for something else, you will always pay a price.
What is your work? What are you passionate about?
First, you must figure out what your art looks like. My art has many facets: building my website and brand, writing articles and books, recording videos and snapping photographs, coaching others to become better, and cooking, eating and thinking about food. They are all parts of me passionately creating what I need to create. I work on each of these to varying degrees (writing is at the top).
2 hours that could change your life
For those of you that struggle with working on your art, this is what you should do: Set aside 2 hours and do good art. For 2 hours, you will work on whatever is welling up inside of you. No distractions, no agenda, no goal, just do good art.
How to use 2 hours to change your life… format:
- Go to the library, set a timer for 2 hours, and turn off all distractions—no phone, email, Facebook. Just you and whatever your work looks like: a spreadsheet, a pad of paper to sketch an idea, a keyboard to write, a set of pencils or markers, a hammer and a nail, whatever.
- Work for 2 hours straight on something you are passionate about and do NOTHING else during this time. Get up to stretch a couple times but take no more than a couple minutes break, and do not engage in any outside distractions. Don’t let anything ruin your flow. Keep your mind in your work.
Try this a few times and you’ll be hooked. If you are struggling to figure out what your art is, this is the perfect way to figure it out. Creation and self-discovery go hand in hand.
The hard truth: If you don’t spend time to work on your art, you are severely handicapping your life, future and happiness. You are not making your mark on the world. You are not leaving anything behind. You are not making the world a better place for you having been there.
You can apply the 2-hour technique to your job-based work as well. This will allow you to get your bill-paying work done faster so you can spend more time working your art.
We all have to do a job for money, and we all have a job to do for art. Maybe one day you’ll be lucky enough for them to be the same thing. Until then, you will have to do what we all must do: balance both.
You are the CEO and the Employee in the business of You. The balance between these two is a fragile ecosystem that you must tend to. Let either one overtake the other and you have problems.
My best advice is to keep your employee work to the bare minimum so you can fill that time with your art. Do this enough and one day you might even get paid for it.
Yours in Doing Good Art,
P.S. Watch this commencement speech by Neil De Gaiman called “Make Good Art.”