By Liana Weston
I have an unbelievable job right now. But on the side, I’m a self-proclaimed singer-songwriter with a music degree…who can’t remember the last time I wrote a song and haven’t stood under bright lights in years. It’s hard not to feel creatively stifled when what you produce doesn’t match up with your expectations (a thing that happens to all beginners) and also when you’re on that full-time career train! Furthering your skills and pursuing your dream of becoming a musician (or painter, comedian, designer, writer, and so on) when you’re occupied from 9 to 5 is rough, but quitting your day job in exchange for the artist’s life isn’t generally a plausible first step. The good news is there are ways to carve out time and stay motivated along the way. We can do this together, OK?
Find the time.
Sometimes our Netflix binge-watching gets the best of us, and we lose sight of how much potential “me time” falls victim to zoning out. It’s only natural to want to unwind after an insane day at the office, but you’ve got to reevaluate how your time is being spent. “I’m too tired” or “I’m too busy” simply will not suffice—you have to find a balance between relaxing and creating. Experiment with what times are most productive for you: Are you more efficient when the sun comes up, when you’re fresh off the clock, or later at night? Learning when you work best can be half the battle.
It may seem counter intuitive, but discipline and creativity are not mutually exclusive! Once you’ve settled on what hour (or hours) of the day seem to be best, put together a schedule for yourself. Figure out when you’re going to do your thing and what exactly you want to accomplish during that time. Just be realistic about your to-do lists: Allow yourself to be flexible, and don’t set goals you know you can’t meet. If your friend is celebrating their birthday on a night you’re supposed to be writing your screenplay, then make sure the time lost is time gained in the next day’s session.
Make it social!
Engaging with people who share your interest may seem fairly obvious, but self-doubt can creep in before you make a move. Have faith in your abilities and put yourself out there! Sign up for an improv class if you’re an aspiring comedian, get involved in the local gallery scene if art’s your thing, or even start your own open mic night if there isn’t one in your area. Getting involved online works too (yes, you should definitely post your cover of T-Swift’s new song on YouTube)—it’s all about immersing yourself in a creative world and opening up dialogues with like-minded people.
Spread the word.
Tell people outside of those creative worlds what you’re trying to do, too! It’s quite possible you’ll discover you’re not the only one attempting to pursue your artistic dreams on the side, and finding people who are in the same boat can be incredibly helpful! Even just filling your friends and family in on what you’re up to can be super motivating. You can and should own your interests: Be confident in promoting yourself and be open to opportunities that may come your way as a result—even if your work isn’t 100% there yet.
Seek out mentors.
The most indispensable advice you’ll get is from people who have years of experience doing what you want to do. Seek out these kinds of figures for inspiration and encouragement! Rather than blindly send your graphic design portfolio to an agency, choose a point of contact (even if it’s random!) and email them to ask if you can meet in person. You’ll be surprised how much people enjoy talking about their personal artistic trajectory. Also, don’t be afraid to hit up your friends for contacts. If you know your pal is tight with a guitarist and you’re in need of someone to jam with, ask to be set up. Basically, connect as many dots as possible to get the full picture!
Put some pressure on yourself.
Even if you don’t want your hobby to become your career one day, your creative efforts are more likely to thrive when deadlines are in place. And if there’s a financial incentive in getting the job done, even better! So submit pitches, apply for showcases—put yourself in a position to commit to something. It helps to have someone counting on you to get your work done! You’ll be challenged to produce more and stick to a timeline in the process. Not to mention, it will also facilitate feedback from someone other than your own mom (she’s not always right, you know).