On day jobs.

It was April 2010. I’d been unemployed for over a year, I’d racked up debt, and I had just signed the lease on an apartment that I badly needed to keep in order to have a safe place to start writing my novel. I’d been job searching for two months and sent out hundreds of applications, with no luck, despite having a Master’s degree from MIT.

Finally I was contacted by a place called the TCL Institute. I wrote an impressive cover letter, aced the test materials they sent me, and was invited for an interview. I wore the only real “business” outfit I own (belted black sheath, pink cardigan). I greeted the manager with a firm handshake and was shown to a room with four interviewers seated around a conference table. I sat down. I handed over my folder of credentials. They all introduced themselves. We were all smiling. One of them said,

“So, Monica! Tell us why you’re interested in a career in medical education project management.”

I said, “I’m not. I’m an artist looking for a day job.”


After a few beats, she thanked me for being honest and showed me to the door.

Some might say that was a self-destructive move. I disagree. Fast-forward one week: I got another interview at a biomedical company, where I made it clear who I was, what my priorities were, and what I was looking for in a job: “I leave at 5:00pm to go home and write. Period.” The manager agreed. In the months that followed, she sometimes regretted that, but as she’d accepted my terms at the outset, there was nothing she could do. I wrote three entire drafts of the novel while at that job. Fast-forward eighteen months: I’ve left the biomedical job and gone official with my business, Byrne Scientific Editing. I don’t make a killing, but I don’t have to. Working part-time gives me enough to live on. And the rest of the time, I get to make art.

Here’s what I mean to say: Be honest about what you want. Both to yourself and to others. There is nothing to gain by misrepresenting yourself.


5 Comments on “On day jobs.”

  1. This is great, Monica! I love it, and it is so true. I have been on the opposite side, letting a day job slowly creep into a “career” and take over my art. But no more! I’ve already made the necessary changes and life is now moving along according to plan!

  2. That is AWESOME, Geraud. I still remember your speech at the DAC award ceremony–so confident and kickass. I’m so glad to hear the universe is meeting the risks you’re taking.

  3. Good for you – I was clear up front with my job that I was an artist first and foremost, but things have been creeping into my daily life for the past year or so and now I definitely need to make a change. Once I started having dreams about emails I needed to send, I knew it was time to go! It’s hard when you’re Type A not to throw all your energy into a day job and then use the scraps for creative work – I’m trying to shift that balance now.

  4. It’s true, Caitlin–it IS really hard. But I love that moment when you recognize a change has to be made…it’s like taking a deep breath. Good for you, too!

  5. […] mansplaining, romantic love, living in Belize, creative control, childlessness, work ethic, day jobs for artists, body image, branding while female, self-cutting, harassment, sexual harassment, how to get […]

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