Thursday, January 06, 2011

Working from Home? No, Thank You

It's taken me over two years, but I now realize I don't do well working from home, setting my own hours and being my own boss. Freelancing sounds like the perfect job, and maybe for some people it is. Not me. I need structure. I need a place to go in the morning. And most of all I need a steady paycheck.

Although I'm an artist, I'm not cut out for the artist's lifestyle. I can't seem to merge Art for art's sake and Art to make money. This is called cognitive dissonance: "the theory that the tension-producing effects of incongruous cognitions motivate individuals to reduce such tension." (I knew my psych degree would come in handy some day.)

The dream job of being paid well for your creativity and not compromising doesn't exist. Either you will be a creative artist  and risk being in the poor house OR you will work for someone else but have the financial freedom to pursue your art on the side. Yes, there are some people who can make very good money and be financially secure in the arts, but the question remains: how much of their "art" did they compromise?

I don't think I'm being pessimistic. I'm being realistic. We need to rethink the word "Work." What is "work"?

The dictionary defines it this way: activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform something.

In addition:
Work is getting paid a wage for your time and talents.
Work keeps the economy going.
Work is exhausting (shout out to America's lumberjacks)
Work is not always easy (unless you work for the government)
Work is exciting (or it can be if you have a good attitude)
Work gives us purpose and meaning.

I've also realized I enjoy office work. I like working on the computer, filing, writing business letters, research, staff meetings. I like taking on new projects. I like talking to my coworkers. I like wearing nice clothes. I like the 9 to 5 work day with weekends and evenings free. I like paid holidays and sick days.

Ironically, I wrote more stories and plays when  I was working full-time than I did when I was freelancing full time. I was more creative and was better able to manage my time off. When I worked for myself, I didn't have any time off. It seemed like I was working all the time but not producing anything. Procrastination took over my life.

I'm not saying working from home is a bad thing. It's great if that's what you want to do. It just wasn't for me. Thinking back, I was in love with the "idea" of working at home. On paper, it sounds great. Get up whenever you want, drink coffee, read the paper, write and create all day. But in reality, to make it succeed, you have to work at it. Hard work. Even when you don't feel like it. For me it was stressful and the most uncreative, unproductive time of my life.

I don't think I'm sacrificing my creativity for money. As I said before, I feel more creative than ever. I'm working on a full-length play and an anthology of short stories. I manage my time better and I am happier. I have a place to go in the morning and I like my office environment. I have the best of both worlds.

As for this dreamer, she's had a reality check. And it's not all bad.

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