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Advice / Career Paths / Career Change

The Undercover Artist: How to Try Out a Creative Career Path

Have you ever woken up in the morning and thought to yourself, I should be doing something artistic with my life?

Maybe you wanted to be an art major, but your parents made it clear they wanted you to obtain a law degree. Maybe your own self-doubt kept you from diving into acting or auditioning for the dance team.

Sure, your current career probably puts food on the table, and it should be valued for this tremendous fact. But if you’ve ever clocked in at your job and thought, I am more than this. I can be more than this, you’re probably right.

So many people in this world are talented, imaginative, passionate people who spend the bulk of their time in a career they do not find inspiring. But the good news is, it is never too late to reach deep and find that lost, untapped artist that may be lurking under your sensible career choice.

Now, I’m not going to say it’s always easy. I am currently an actor, writer, and movie producer living in Los Angeles—but I also have to copywrite and work in a hotel to make the ends meet. But I feel lucky to be able to do all five of these things, and it is why I think people working uninspiring jobs can find their creative outlets or even monetize their passions with hard work and dedicated focus.

If you want a life in the arts, and you have the gumption to go for it, it can be there for you. Here’s how to get started.

Find Your Art

First, and most importantly, figure out the art that you favor. This could be drawing, cooking, painting, knitting, singing, acting, sculpture, or anything else that you feel a driving passion for. In your free time, start creating this thing. Write songs on your breaks. Draw pictures during commercials. Write down ideas for stories at stoplights. Knit little animals while you wait for the spin cycle to finish.

Once you have that thing—that art that you love to create—write out your intentions of being that type of artist on scrap pieces of paper and keep them in your wallet, by your bed, and around your house. Or, display works from artists you love around your home. They will help remind you of your goals.

Start a Portfolio

Next, you want to start creating a collection or body of work. If you make paper flowers, arrange them as bouquets. If you make clay figures, create a few sets. If you create interesting types of cupcakes, write down or blog about the recipes. It sounds simple, but creating a body of work is one of the keys to being an artist in your own mind. Once you have a few examples that you’re proud of, you will start thinking of yourself as an artist.

As you do this, try to tune out the doubters in your life (and trust me, there will be many). There are those people out there who will see this transformation in you as a waste of time. Don’t argue with them—it will take too much of your artistic energy. Let them be, and then tell your more supportive friends about your newest piece of art. There’s a great quote from Eleanor Roosevelt that always speaks to my heart: “Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you will be criticized anyway.”

Research, Research, Research

We are living in an amazing age of global information sharing and marketing: Online marketplaces like Etsy make it possible for someone in Bulgaria to create a bouquet of handmade silk flowers and sell them to a starry-eyed bride in Kansas. Sites like YouTube make it possible for a boy in his basement in Japan to make a short film that gets viewed by other filmmakers in France. And an insurance salesman from Montana can put his original songs online and have a world platform for his art.

So go online and figure out what other artists of your medium are doing with their works, and learn how to market your own art. Put your painting on a website. Create a site filled with your original music. Self publish your short stories and novels. Blog about your new life changes and revel in the fact that you’ve created this wave of creativity.

From here, your job is to be the artist you always wanted to be. It might not look quite like you imagined, of course—and you might have to keep your uninspiring job for a time while you design your new creative life. Two of my current jobs are uninspiring, but the other three are amazing. They’re very worth the time and effort I spend on them.

You never know what doors may open up if you unlock your mind and put in the work. Along the way, you will have become that daring, creative artist inside you.

Photo of woman painting courtesy of Shutterstock.