In the early 1900s in New York City, an artist community began growing in Greenwich Village. As more and more immigrants flooded into the city, so did a large group of artists, writers, and innovators.
These creative people were more than willing to practice their craft in this land of opportunity, however, what they soon discovered was that most people didn’t need a painting or sculpture or sonnet written for them. So, these creatives took on jobs as magazine writers, advertising illustrators, and construction workers. When they were among their other artist friends, they spoke of their work as either “commercial” or “personal.” These terms were related to either billable projects that earned the artists money or creative projects that they worked on without any direct client or immediate source of income.
What was so important about this terminology was that the artists never felt that they were abandoning their craft or “selling out.” They were able to define their art in such a way that they were always practicing their craft, either commercially or personally.
If we fast forward more than 100 years to today, can we say the same thing? How often do we tell ourselves that we’re working at our job as a sacrifice for the future opportunity to do what we really want to do?
As I counsel young people who are about to enter the workforce, I encourage them to really think about what they love to do on daily basis. Once they are able to define that, they should really be searching for jobs and careers that touch upon some of those activities and interests. There is no perfect job that will align exactly with what you want to do, but by looking for specific points of interests, you can slowly create a career that blends together what you have to do to make a living and what drives you creatively.
What the Greenwich Village artists figured out was that there is honor and opportunity in both professional and personal creative pursuits. The key is not to give up one for the other but to allow each endeavor to complement and encourage the other.
It’s the balance between the two worlds that will drive your career forward.