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Dreams vs Responsibility: How can I balance my life?
August 19, 2010 6:29 PM   Subscribe

How can I become a responsible adult without getting my dreams lost in the process? Can they be one and the same?

I'm 24 and living with my parents. We get along well, but I do need to move out eventually. For the record, their response to all this is, "Just write a book! It'll be a best seller because you're awesome and you'll be rich forever." I have evidence suggesting they're blinded by parental love.

Work Experience:
-- Stable hand during high school. Basic horse care. Nothing fancy.
-- After college, I was hired out of an internship as a QA engineer. I did test work, but also made all the tutorials and instructions for their software. Draining job. Three hour commute. Agonized before quitting.
-- Fretting, I bought into the idea that internet business was the key to surviving this economy. I made back my investment and even a small profit, but loathed it. I added nothing of value to the world and was working longer than before.

Education wise, I have a bachelor's degree in game design, which applies to an industry that's grown more social than I expected. I'd love to make independent games on my own for a living, but I'd love to be a full time novelist too, if we're being radical dreamers today.

One option I've tossed around is private commissions, as art is also near and dear to me. I've been approached by others asking if I'd do this for them, but I JUST played the "toy with self-employment while not earning an actual living" game. Granted, I don't have an immediate need for extra funds. But it feels irresponsible.

The last time I applied for jobs, that itself was a full time job, and I was begging for an unpaid position at the time. I've sent out applications recently, but not the 10-15 a day I did then. It's difficult to be that aggressive without a sense of what I'm looking for.

It feels there's not enough time for everything. I want to write my fiction, work on my art, learn languages... but I don't want to neglect my responsibility as an adult. Maybe I just need a lesson in time management; I feel all over the place.

tl;dr... I think my situation boils down to these questions:

A) What day jobs fit my education/experience that would also be well suited to an introvert?

B) Am I completely crazy for entertaining the idea of going freelance with art, continuing writing, and seeing where that gets me even if it lacks the guarantee of a steady paycheck? Some days I feel like job hunting lacks that guarantee, too.

Any insight offered is appreciated, no matter how small. Thanks!
posted by vienaragis to Work & Money (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
You are a writer, a game designer, with programming skills and an interest in art? You are a small game studio's dreeeeam. I am a video game producer. I love it when I get lucky enough to have someone like you on my team. Game dev can have soul suckingly long hours, but it depends on where you work. Memail me. I would be happy to help you out.
posted by pazazygeek at 6:37 PM on August 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


Am I completely crazy for entertaining the idea of going freelance with art, continuing writing, and seeing where that gets me even if it lacks the guarantee of a steady paycheck?

As someone who worked full-time as a freelancer for two years, I'll go ahead and say that you should have something else already going when you start out on your freelance career. You just have to be obsessed with it, is all.

When you're starting out as a freelancer, the work comes in fits and starts (when it comes at all) so it's rarely going to threaten to outpace your regular work. And if you get a great steady offer for fairly reliable freelance work, then hooray! You get to quit your other job.

I think it's hard to take starting out as a freelancer seriously when it's your sole focus -- it's hard to gauge how hard you're even trying, how much more you should be doing. When you're already working full time, you start getting all these thoughts like, "GAH, if I wasn't stuck here I'd be following up with x and writing spec pieces for y and sending story ideas to z!" And then if you're really driven, in your free time you actually DO those things. Whereas if you aren't already working, you sit around thinking, "GAH, if I wasn't so lazy I'd be following up with x and writing spec pieces for y and sending story ideas to z!" and then you keep putting it off because you are a procrastination-making machine, and a broke one to boot.

That's just my experience anyway.
posted by hermitosis at 6:39 PM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Living at home is the best time to forgo a regular paycheck, if you can handle living at home.

Also, these things don't have to be a dichotomy; You can do art and whatever in between work - especially if you get a job with generous holiday allowances. Also, a salary lets you travel overseas for vacations, god I love that, and I never got it as a freelancer.

Remember, doing creative stuff only gets you points from yourself. Don't do work - creative or otherwise - because you feel obligated to do it. Do it cause you enjoy it, or what it gives you. Also, you will never have time to do every cool hobby, being an adult means prioritising, but the cool part is you get to change your mind whenever you like. :)
posted by smoke at 6:41 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


A) What day jobs fit my education/experience that would also be well suited to an introvert?

You say you want to write a novel. I say, do it. That's more or less what I did when I was your age. As for income, I drove cab, which had nothing to do with my education/experience but ended up being enormously educational, and damned good basic life experience, which continues to help with the novel writing ... speaking of which, I think you've got the right idea in your second paragraph.

I'm 24 and living with my parents. ... their response to all this is, "Just write a book! It'll be a best seller because you're awesome and you'll be rich forever." I have evidence suggesting they're blinded by parental love.

That is, it's best to write thinking it won't be awesome and you won't be rich forever. But you will grow both as a writer and as a human being and who knows, maybe by the time you're 48, you'll have the skills and the wisdom to give the world (the part that reads anyway) something they genuinely need. Again, that's kind of how it's gone with me. Not saying I'm some kickass visionary wordsmith or anything ... but my craft has definitely grown with the decades and all the weird roads I've stumbled along pursuing the truth inherent in the maxim that Life is what happens to you while you pursue other plans. The key is, get busy pursuing those plans (whatever they may be) so that life can happen.
posted by philip-random at 6:57 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your situation sounds a lot like mine, so I'm probably just plain projecting here :)

Sending out applications is not "aggressive." It's fairly passive. If you don't have a sense of what you're looking for, the worst thing you could do is sit at home and blindly send out applications. You need to venture outside the house, outside of your comfort zone, and see what other people are up to and how you can help them. Even if you are an introvert, you need to be somehow letting people know that you exist if you want to find more opportunities.

Second, I disagree with you, smoke... doing creative stuff does get you points from others, if you share it.

Do your art! Make something, share it with others, get their opinions, offer it for sale, even teach others how to do it. That definitely equals points (reputation and money/credit). If you don't share your talents, that's when it doesn't get you anywhere.

Don't look at getting a day job as selling out, look at it as a stepping stone--something to get you out of Mom and Dad's house.
posted by Theloupgarou at 7:12 PM on August 19, 2010


It's not clear from your post what your idea of a "responsible adult" is, but I get the impression that it's a negative thing. I think that a lot of people in the US are inculcated with the expectation that once you leave school, you're supposed to stop having fun and doing things that interest you, so that you can go work someplace you hate, but hopefully become a manager so you can make enough money to buy a house and a car and an engagement ring and a riding lawnmower, and have a baby andandand...

It's not true. Being a responsible adult doesn't need to mean anything more than legally and ethically paying the bills and meeting your business commitments (whether you're working for someone else or self-employed), period.

That being said, at various times in your life you may find yourself working a job that is not exactly what you'd prefer to be doing with the bulk of your day - when this happens, glean all of the experience and insight you possibly can from that job. Use it as an opportunity to move on to the next big thing, always looking for aspects that you can apply to your own pursuits.

As for not having enough time for everything... well, it's a problem that people on the green have discussed before. It helps me to remember that there are way too many people out there whose only passion is seeing who gets kicked off of American Idol this week.
posted by usonian at 7:31 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I will be the semi-embittered realist here.

You are 100 percent right to be looking for a day job. In my experience, there are two, maybe three kinds of people who make consulting work, but at the moment, you're not one of them. I speak as someone who won't entertain consulting for myself, having tried it once, so maybe I'm projecting or at least I speak from experience. If you were the "every day I'm husslin" type, you'd still be committed to making your last attempt work and you'd probably have three or four business cards for your various endeavors. If you were the uber-competent type, you wouldn't have tried it so early in your career; you'd have had an 18-month savings cushion and three reliable clients first. There are also the have-no-choice-live-for-art types who either turn into one of those other types or pick up a restaurant job. You don't sound like any of these, not even the third. You sound like you could stand having a 9-5 job and might even appreciate the structure and stability. I have not even factored in to this paragraph the fact that making a living off of art is 100x harder than consulting in general, and that among the arts, writing is one of the harder ones to live off of, then yes, I would take (b) completely off the table. There was a great comment about six months ago on AskMe where a writer piped up about not quitting your day job until you had sold three books (something like that); write the first three on evenings and weekends.

I can't help with (a) exactly. But I can say, as a fellow certainty-liking introvert, that it is great to have found a group that accepts me and makes a place for me to be left alone and do work I like, and then pays me regularly for it. I would worry less about finding the perfect thing and worry more about finding something that you can do now when you value passion and truth, and later when you value your family and your post-5 pm freedom, and then later when you value justice and having contributed something good to the world.
posted by salvia at 7:44 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm going to be a meanie because your parents are not. And I promise, this isn't as arbitrary as it sounds:

You're not allowed to even consider staying at home to write full time until you've written a book. Whether or not you're working at the time when you write it. Everyone I know who has quit their day job to write without a book under their arm already has totally squandered that time. Get a book out, then you can try to figure out whether it's something you genuinely want to do as a job or not.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:04 PM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


(Oh, and even when you've done that, it's likely not a financially feasible "plan." But at least then you'll know if you can hack the work.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:12 PM on August 19, 2010


You guys are awesome and I appreciate the responses approaching both sides. Usonian hit it pretty square on the head; my sense of what it means to be an adult is sadly as described and I'm going to give that a hard look. :\

It also helps to hear getting a day job isn't giving up, but that I don't have to dump every drop of energy I've got into it either; that my own pursuits are valid, too. I guess I just needed to hear, "It's OKAY to do both, if you need both."

Thanks again, guys.
posted by vienaragis at 2:28 AM on August 20, 2010


It feels there's not enough time for everything. I want to write my fiction, work on my art, learn languages... but I don't want to neglect my responsibility as an adult.

Uh, what 'responsibility as an adult'? As said above, if you're paying your own bills and (if you want, if your parents are happy for you to stay and you can hack it then roll with that) keeping a roof over your head, that's it. Really, that's it.

Kids, car, mortgage, trading your time on this earth for a paycheck - these are all choices you can make not obligations you must fulfil. Recognising the difference is critical.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:40 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't underestimate how energizing/inspiring it can be to have a day job that's separate from your creative pursuits! It forces you to get out of the house, to interact with different people, and to learn about different areas of life. All of this can be great fresh material for creative writing and thinking.

(I do creative writing/art outside of my day job, and I can't even count how many times my job has turned up some cool fact or skill or story that's made its way into my writing. If I were just sitting at home focusing on my own creative stuff, I would get into a rut/mental echo chamber and just write on the same topics over and over. I really need that forced outside interaction to get my brain going.)
posted by cadge at 7:42 AM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just dropping in with a different perspective/ways to view this –

You can get something that you want out of jobs besides monetary compensation and I think if you change your mind set about this you could get one or two of the things that you are after. What is/are the most important things to you on your list? Pick one or two, and find jobs that meet those criteria.

For example, you mention that you want to “learn languages”. If you identify this as one of your most important goals, then …..consider the Peace Corps or teaching English in another country. Basically, someone will pay (not much, mind you, but some money) you to live in another country and I guarantee you will learn the language better than you would as a student sitting in a classroom studying French 101 2 hours/week.

Or, you mention that you are an introvert and perhaps a work setting that matches an introvert is your goal. Working for yourself as a freelancer may be perfect for you (work from home/tons of alone time). Find an industry that hires people for your particular skill set (ie, writer of technical manuals? game programmer?) and get a full-time job at a place that hires people to do this. Your task should be to study and learn everything there so that you can leave within 2 years time and work on your own (make contacts who will hire you later, get samples that you can use to demonstrate your work, learn industry standards). If you want to survive working on your own, I highly recommend working fulltime at similar place first, then jump.

Or is your goal to learn about art? Try to get employed at a university that offers “free courses” as a benefit. Take those classes each year. Better yet, see if you can get hired by the art department or at a museum – work but also look at art all day.

But I really think that you should pick one or two things that you want from a workplace, then only apply to those places. Right now you are randomly throwing out CVs, of course it seems like work. Are you presenting your strengths? Your passions? Most people are not enthusiastic about a random job listing.

Similar to the other posters, I think you should look critically at what you are doing at home. Are you writing a lot everyday and submitting this material to be published? Believe it or not, I think the drudgery of some work places can help drive a person to create. Check out what this guy (Hugh MacLeod/download the how to be creative pdf) says about creativity and working a day job – Hugh was able to convert his dissatisfaction with workplaces into his own successful creativity/art and he is now very successful. Also, nthing the comments of PhobWanKenobe - the people who get this chance seem …not to use it. If you live on your own, rent needs to come from somewhere. You will be hungry enough to do what it takes to publish your writing, sell your art, or find a job.

You can work on those things on the side, by the way. If you are driven to sell your art, do you have a website? Have you approached places to sell or show your art? You can work 40 hours week at a job and promise yourself to spend 5 hours a month on your art business. Or if you are applying for jobs, spend 20 hours/week looking for a job and 5 hours/week on your so-called art business/or writing (make the webpage, talk to pple, whatever). Are you doing this at all right now?
posted by Wolfster at 10:36 AM on August 20, 2010


You can work on those things on the side, by the way. If you are driven to sell your art, do you have a website? Have you approached places to sell or show your art? You can work 40 hours week at a job and promise yourself to spend 5 hours a month on your art business. Or if you are applying for jobs, spend 20 hours/week looking for a job and 5 hours/week on your so-called art business/or writing (make the webpage, talk to pple, whatever). Are you doing this at all right now?

Following on Wolfster's point, there was a book that came out recently called "The Other 8 Hours". I have no idea how good it is, but I did read an OK review of it. the point of it from what I gather and it is the same as has been made by others here, is that even with a full time job you have a lot of free time to do other things. If art, writing and learning languages are important to you, then make time every day before or after work to do art, writing and language learning. Literally schedule it in. This is why when you look for a job, considerations like how many total hours per week and how long your commute is should be important factors. You may have to sacrifice watching TV, or going to the bars, and delay life decisions like finding a serious mate or having kids, but like others have said it is completely possible to have a full-time and even high paying job while still pursuing your dreams in your free time. You just have to be active in managing your time.
posted by the foreground at 12:27 PM on August 20, 2010


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