The Corporate Artist

We, not our jobs, place limits on our creative expression.

Posted Aug 05, 2012

I’ve recently been doing quite a bit of corporate coaching work– privately and in workshops– where I’ve seen the flip side of the ‘artist coin’ I so often encounter.  While singers and performers often struggle with how to best relate to the art with which they’re engaged full time, those in the corporate world tend to long for a relationship with creativity they’ve either never had, or gave up in order to get a ‘real job’.

And this ‘giving up’ is prevalent.  40 (and 50, and 60…) hours a week is a lot of time, and other things do indeed have to give.  Work or art?  Creativity or a job?  For these men and women, it often doesn’t seem possible to have their cake and eat it too.

In my experience however, it is not a lack of time that prevents professionals from exploring their creativity.  As a matter of fact, when I have my clients total up their non-work, non-family, non-health and hobby related time (including television, Facebook, self-defeatist thinking, and unproductive dawdling), they find an average of– get this– 20 spare hours a week! 

If corporate types are not too busy to explore their creativity, what is stopping them from doing so?  One big roadblock is the sense of resignation or frustration that often comes from not doing what they would rather be doing all day.  Maintaining the belief that life isn’t fair or how it ‘should be’ not only saps precious energy in and out of the office, it also becomes the excuse to not engage in what they’d supposedly be doing if they didn’t have to work.

Why would anyone need such an excuse? 

Because the fear of failure is powerful.  Rather than a job, family, or a lack of time, it is the primary reason people never really go for their passions, creativity, or areas of interest in the first place.  It varyingly presents as overwhelm, practicality, or a lack of inspiration, which we then believe is what keeps us from committing to and enjoying the process of creativity.  

I promise you: your job has nothing to do with whether or not you’ve allowed yourself to tap into what you really care about.  I know people with corporate careers who have written entire novels 20 minutes a day on their lunch breaks and others who have recorded albums one song at a time over a period of years as they gathered the money and time necessary for each. 

I myself recently took up the cello, and have been amazed at how many hours a week I am practicing– time I would have sworn I simply did not have when considering other more intimidating projects.  Many artists I work with have had similar experiences with hobbies outside of their primary creative fields.

Indeed, artists and corporate types are not really all that different.  Because people are not really all that different.  Every one of us has hopes and dreams, and– whether we know it or not– reaches for excuses to not go for them when we get afraid.  Overwhelm, arrogance, and apathy are all markers of the same.

Whatever you do for a living, rather than thinking about what you’d do if only you had more time, pick a project or two you’ve been dreaming about and make a commitment to engage with them a certain amount of time each day.  Even if it’s for only 15 minutes.  Don’t worry whether or not inspiration will come; the only catalyst creativity needs is your showing up consistently, determinedly, and doggedly.

The shift from wishing to commitment is a powerful one.  Make it, and you’ll be shocked at how much time you really do have each day, as well as how much self-expression you can pack into each… no matter what kind of job you have.

Jennifer Hamady is a voice coach and counselor specializing in emotional issues that interfere with self-expression. Click here to learn more about her book: The Art of Singing: Discovering and Developing Your True Voice, heralded as a breakthrough in the psychology of personal and musical performance.

Click here to follow her on Twitter 

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