I had another insight about the tension between working for a living and having a life worth living while reading a post by Danny Gregory, a thinking man’s artist.
I know that work is necessary to house and feed your family, but it is vital to keep your dreams alive and make time every day for the creative pursuits that keep you fully alive.
In Hiatus, Danny relates the all-too-common phenomena of losing oneself in a work situation.
In 1999, I started a job that consumed me. Consumed me like a boa consumes a bunny. Eventually my marriage, my parenthood, my health, my instinct for self preservation were all swallowed up like Laocoön. One of the first victims was drawing…
I have done the same sad cycle many times and am steeling myself now to prevent it from occurring again. One of the ways in which I can break free from a destructive pattern is by discovering what I am doing, or not doing, that gives it power over me.
I seem to begin these seductive work-related cycles at a point where my creativity has reached a new peak and has attracted attention from someone who needs my help. The work is generally interesting, the tasks are essential, and the money is welcome, so where does the problem lie?
The problem lies in myself, of course, because I want to help, I want to earn money, and I want to do a superlative job of creating and organizing a successful business.
So, what’s wrong with this picture?
The problem is that I throw all my creativity into this new opportunity and I create changes which are viewed with apprehension, so I throttle back to create changes which are acceptable. My changes increase business volume and profitability, but I keep getting pressure to make fewer changes while fixing the situation I was hired to fix. The demonstrable fact that business and profits are increasing gets lost because of the culture shock propagating through the organization from my changes.
So, I work harder and try to make my changes more palatable and before I know it I am trying to stay off the radar so that I can get my job done without upsetting management. Basically I am making myself smaller and working more slowly and more carefully so that I can fit in. This takes up more time, as it is far less efficient, and I spend more time working and less time living.
Meanwhile my resentment is building up and I become a much less cheerful person. I have put myself in a box of my own making and it affects every aspect of my life. It invariably ends with my voluntary or involuntary departure and a return to a less remunerative, but far happier existence.
Thinking of myself as a short-term contractor, instead of an employee, has given me the ability to catch myself before becoming too deeply ensnared in this soul-sucking morass of other-directed creative activity by the numbers, but it hasn’t prevented me from getting drawn in and repeating this cycle endlessly.
The next transformation for me is to reach a level of enlightenment that will allow me to help new employers/clients without getting personally enmeshed in whatever corporate insanity exists.
Corporations, like friends have quirks (insanities) that can be avoided if you know they are there. When these insanities are not invoked, you can deal with them and expect rational results. If you know what you are up against, you can set expectations for them and for yourself that can be realized.
Maintain a day job, if necessary to feed yourself. Keep your dreams alive to feed your soul.