Allowing the mental space to be creative.
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Still from Resurrect Dead- The Mystery of the Toynebee Tiles

Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles (2011) is one of my favorite modern documentaries. (link to trailer). The film is about three people who become obsessed with the origin of the tiles, which appear randomly in pavement and sidewalks around Philadelphia. 

Director Jon Foy cleaned houses for over five years to raise money while he worked on his film. He felt that if he got a side job that used the same skills he was using on his passion project, it would zap his creative energy. Cleaning houses is boring, and that's the point. It allows him the mental space to make connections and subconsciously work out his film while he was earning a living. Getting a job in your field can be a great way to gain experience and connections. You also run the risk of devoting all of your creative energy to that job and not having much left for the project that could really launch your career. 

Industry-related day jobs are not the only kind of jobs that can hamper your personal creativity. I've written about working as a digital media educator, and while it allows me to improve my skills through teaching and repetition, being an educator is one of the most mentally and emotionally draining jobs there is. Anyone who suggests that teaching is the perfect day job for the ambitious artist has either never done it, wasn't terribly invested in it, or was born with a second nervous system. Especially if you work with young people, you are a counselor, social worker, advocate as well as the master teacher in whatever skill you want to pass on. 

So if you've ever wondered if it would be easier to drop the prestige of your job, or take a break from molding and shaping minds to drive a Lyft, work at a retail store, walk dogs or clean houses, that's not just your stress talking. Energy management is as important as time management, if not more. Finding work that will fund your vision without clouding it is a noble and necessary pursuit.

Your turn: What are the best day jobs for artists/creatives who are working on a passion project? Reply via email or on Twitter with the hashtag #HWWork

Highwater Weekly Picks 

  • Visual artists: The new year is upon us, so start planning your application strategy for funding, exhibitions and residency opportunities. The Artist Trust has a great list of nation-wide funding opportunities.
Reading List
  • Check out the books that Junot Diaz puts on his syllabus
  • I'm half-way through The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr and it is giving me great insights on how to be truthful and fair in my writing.
  • December is a great month for streaming original documentaries on the PBS website
If you have any suggestions, questions or submissions for The Highwater Weekly, please send them to

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Thanks for reading. 

Your partner in progress, 
Chakka AKA Tracy Trapman
Copyright © 2015 Highwater MAG, All rights reserved.

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