On finding meaning in what we do

Posted on Wednesday, July 29th, 2015 at 10:58 pm

RE: ‘In the Name of Love’ By Miya Tokumitsu

[Illustration is from Pin City in Revolver Vol.1]
I read this last year, I recall nodding a lot when i did but the absolutist statement in the headline is off. It CAN, many good points are made about privilege too. This is a very late response of sorts. My friend and cartoonist Wm Brian MacLean posted a link to it with some thoughts in my feed today: Had a thought or two myself, on how I approach some of this on a very personal level. I thought I’d get those down for my students.

I think I learned a lot of tradesmanship ethics and ideas about this sort of thing as a kid from my mother; a working artist and my first teacher – and my father; an active social anarchist and very creative person himself. I did not in fact enjoy as much middle class privilege as many of my immediate peers, but my parents if nothing else gave me a rich creative and philosophical childhood.


In short, for my part, I’ve always tried to work without class judgment OF the work, as much as possible. Out of self-interest if nothing else.


For 25 years, managed to make most if not all of my living exclusively off “creative work“. But that also comes with a LOT of compromises along the way about the nature of the work I do. It’s rare to only ever get hired to do work you love in the arts. Very lucky few can do that, you kind of have to fight for it, and often its a thing that comes and goes.


But even when I’ve been doing manual labour, working in a kitchen or call center even, the most uncreative of all things I’ve done. Getting all pissy with myself over aspirational or class bs is only going to make the work miserable and the time I have to do it in unpleasant. Roll up my damn sleeves and get it done is my at least attempted frame of mind. Self judgment that includes any form of flagellation is not helpful, or correct.


Focus on what I want to be doing, and for sure try to work towards that. But also keep in mind what ELSE I could do that is at least an improvement, and work on that FIRST sometimes. You do want to be able to name your priorities. And learn not to live beyond your means. But suffering and starving for art is not noble at all.


To be really clear, I’m for making room to do the things you love, no mater what. Be it for love or money. Treat them as work in fact, if that’s what you want to do as work.


But know that making them the sole source of personal income, ALSO means quite possibly, giving up freedom too. I’ve personally most often compromised going after greater amounts of $, in favour of more freedom in my art. Sometimes I do get paid quite a bit for a given bit of work. But more often the things I enjoy the most, pay the least.


Living on the tight budgets and unpredictability is not for most, and as I get older I’ve turned to more stable work myself, when it comes to paying the bills. Some freelance still when it comes, and often it’s ok but no great shakes. But I don’t chase after it like I used to do, don’t have the time and energy.


And sometimes it’s just much more enjoyable doing work that you can tolerate, or surprise even enjoy as well, that’s also lot more accessible and easy to get, if you want to spend a substantial part of the time doing work you simply Love as well. IE PT time day jobs can be pretty damn great.


For me right now, it’s teaching about art and comics. Which is creative in its own right but much less free than just making my own comics.


But it’s also been working in restaurants, and that sort of thing when I’ve needed something short-term. I end up enjoying the change for a bit, and then–because I never stop making art my priority, and acquired enough skill to make myself attractive to many clients–opportunities to do more creative work shows up sooner or later.


If I have faith in anything, it’s that this is true.


I don’t think it’s blind faith, I work explicitly to make it so.


But some day it might not.

Who knows.


I chose to not live in fear of that, and know I can probably find meaning for myself in any kind of work that feels positive or constructive. Of course, I’d never apply to an abattoir – sic. But barring that there are many possibilities.


And in the end, I remind myself the complete freedom of freelance, is also the freedom to starve sometimes. That’s not for everyone and that should be no big deal.


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