One of the most popular posts on this blog, by far, is Where Can Creative People Afford to Live These Days?
I’ve been meaning to get back to that one, as I’ve struggled with this quandary myself for years. Just today, I was ranting to someone about how I hate having to work a day job, that our society is set up so that I can’t afford to pursue what I love to do. And then the voices come into my head of other people who say, “That’s just the way it is.” Well, screw the way it is. I’m gonna find a way to be a fully self-supporting artist without having to work for someone else in a rote schedule, mark my words.
So where can creative people afford to live? Have I found any solutions? Well. I’m not certain you want to follow my route. I broke up with my husband and moved to a Victorian flat with two roommates in Oakland. I live in a nice neighborhood where I feel safe. Oakland is an awesome place to be right now. I’m surrounded by musicians and artists and writers and beautiful weirdos of all kinds. There’s always something to do, always a show to go to, a coffee shop to write in, a restaurant to eat at, a hill to hike. My rent is under 400. I live on about 1,000 a month. I ride my bike, I have a budget for groceries and gas (mainly I use the car only to get to work). I have a good friend who has kept his rent around 400/month too, he lives in a warehouse room with a loft. There’s a pipe over the bed, and the bathroom is down the hall, but he’s able to go tour in Europe for six weeks out of the year and record in LA for a month without losing his music clients (he teaches lessons) or his place to live.
It’s a lot about who you know, too. I got my place because a friend had lived there. My friend got his warehouse place because he knows the owner of the building. So there is always that to consider.
Is my current situation ideal? It’s better than it was. Sure, there’s guilt for not being a conformist member of society, for not forcing a broken marriage to work, for pursuing my dreams. And I may have to live predominately on potatoes the rest of my life, however long or short that is, but I’m trying not to think about that.
But aside from that useless emotion, when I look at the bottom line, I’m in business for myself and music/writing come first. With writing, it’s easy to work it around a day job. With music, not so much. There’s touring and recording in the studio and all of that. Day jobs that have a set schedule and health insurance and permanency, like the one I have at the library, are not drop and run types of jobs where you can be like, “Yea, I need to go on tour in June, can I have six weeks off?” Nope. So I haven’t quite find a total solution to my current dilemma which is, there will definitely be studio recording coming up and touring, but I don’t know how much, how long, or when exactly, and I have a set schedule at the library that is not flexible, except with long term planning and enough vacation time. I am not sure what I’m going to do to accomodate my music/writing come first goals without starving to death (yet), but I imagine I will figure something out.
As it stands, I’m exploring my options, but I’m feeling a bit stuck. OK, a lot stuck. I’ve been able to work my local performances and freelance jobs around the library schedule so far, which is four days a week. But nothing as big as what’s ahead. There’s the option of asking to be a permanent intermittent employee, which is basically someone who substitutes around the county at different libraries. That would give me some more schedule freedom ideally, but you can’t pick really what’s going to be available or open and sometimes it’s a crap shoot. And no health insurance. The only other job options I can think of are bartending, waitressing, the same old drill. Which I’m down to do if I need to, though I wouldn’t necessarily love either.
In a perfect world, or my ideal world, I would continue to develop the community of artists, writers and musicians I have around me and we would help each other out with sublets, jobs, shared dinners, essentially be a total community for each other. It’s happening more and more for me lately, the human network, and I’m really happy with it, but it’s still a total struggle. Living alone as an artist seems to be more manageable to me than trying to live with a partner, but maybe someday that will happen again, too. I don’t know.
So maybe my next post will revisit what jobs artists can do that won’t detract from their ability to pursue art, because that seems to be what I ended up talking about here, aside from my current sitch and how I’m trying to pin down a set schedule for upcoming recording/tour so I can decide whether to jump or keep my feet put.