The Grind

October 7, 2014 | 6

It’s a source of hair-pulling anxiety for artists of all kinds: how can you hold down a day job yet commit yourself to your art? It’s undoubtedly possible, but it’s daunting enough that apprentice writers often need advice on how to do it. Herewith, six artists (including writers Catherine Lacey and Shane Jones) explain how they pull it off. Related: Cathy Day on making a living as a writer.

is a staff writer for The Millions. He lives in New York.


  1. How can you hold down a day job yet commit yourself to your art? Do your art when you’re not at work. There, problem solved. And if that sounds unfeasible to you, then you shouldn’t be an artist. Why two people would need to have a discussion about this that lasts more than sixty seconds is bizarre. Either do it or don’t.

  2. Yeah, it’s really not that complicated. In fact, most writers would benefit from a day job — not only the financial security but also the daily interaction with the “real world”. The notion that it’s “daunting” and one “needs advice on how to do it” is preposterous, and speaks volumes to how spoiled and narcissistic young writers are these days.

  3. Most people don’t want to hear that you have to sacrifice something if you want to be good at your art. Whether it’s your family or your free time or your children or your social life or your sex life, something has to suffer. So the question’s subtext is really this: How do I NOT sacrifice anything and still get what I want? And the answer, for all of eternity is: YOU DON’T. Welcome to the world. Welcome to life. Now get on with it.

  4. I have quite a few musician friends. Seeing four people try to balance day jobs against coordinating practices and gigs, touring, and paying out of pocket for jam spaces, studio time, merchandise… that’s daunting. Writing is a thing you can do at any time with just a piece of paper and a pen. If you can’t find time for it, you shouldn’t.

  5. Agree witht timble. There are some people who I think enjoy the pose more than the actual work, and those are the people who ask questions like, When I am supposed to find the time to write? and, How can I hold down a job and still commit to my art? Those are the questions of people who don’t deserve an answer.

  6. I agree whole-heartedly with this comments section. Although I rate The Millions as better than most of the lit sites out there, with a steady stream of good criticism about books, it also seems to trade in these type of WRITING IS HARD columns. Yes, being a writer is hard, but so is basically everything. It is tiresome hearing writers kvetch about writing and its attendant demands, and frankly, I tend to think there is a very strong inverse correlation between amount of kvetching and talent, or if not talent, at least actual commitment to writing.

    The world is full of people who sit at cafes with their laptops open to a blank page, and whose social media is full of pictures of them writing or pretending to write, hashtagged #THE GRIND, #ASSINCHAIR, #DEBUTNOVEL. Most people, as noted above, would rather enjoy the emotional and stylistic trappings of artistry without having to make any of the actual art.

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