Is Art Work?

As a writer, I get asked about my work a lot more than I ever did when I was in corporate roles. I suppose my life now is a lot more unpredictable and varied than it was when I worked in an office, but you might be surprised at how unglamorous self-employment usually looks (any other freelancers out there have ‘pajamas all day’ days, or is that just me?)

Mundanity aside, I really love what I do: helping others find the right words to tell their stories, while working on my own stories that I want to put out into the world. Because I write for various needs and outlets, I’m frequently switching gears: researching for a client, editing a different project, then setting aside time to work on a personal essay. Writing is my work, but it’s also my art; my means of creative expression and connection.

It begs the question: is art work?

Art’s place in the world is finally starting to get its due: with STEM becoming STEAM, art is being recognized as crucial to a well-rounded education. When it comes to work, many of us are at the end of our ropes: recent writeups on burnout (particularly among my generation) have sparked honest conversations about work, boundaries, and happiness — and that we can (and should!) expect all three of these in our jobs.

Finding what makes us truly happy is a big step to finding fulfillment in the work we do. For me, I’m happiest when I feel indispensible; when I’m a part of something greater than myself. It’s probably why I’ve never really had a problem working on teams, or working for someone else. I’m an Enneagram type 2: The Helper (if I’ve ever been unnecessarily helpful to you, my bad. It’s The Helper coming out.) I also recently had a breakthrough that I need to be doing work that I’m emotionally invested in, and compartmentalizing my life such that I become a different person at work than I am at home just isn’t an option for me.

How I feel about my work matters to me, but is irrelevant to the world at large: the thing is, work is work. The fact that I enjoy what I do and find personal fulfillment in it helps me create better work overall. Some of my favorite things I’ve ever written are things I didn’t get paid to write (examples here and here) but that I wanted to put out there for the sake of art, self-expression and releasing ideas and concepts that I want to discuss.

I would submit that art is some of the most difficult work there is: it involves skill, investment of time and resources, and accessing emotions to create from an honest space. Art is vulnerable in that it invites others to see (and judge) our values and our point of view. Framing my art as work (and vice versa) helps me connect with my clients to get at the heart of their message, finding the art in their work and using words as my medium. Because I also write for myself, my work is my art, and I approach it as such.

What are you doing to inject art and creativity into your everyday work?

(The photo in the caption for this post is a snippet of the cheeky ‘Map of Barton Springs’ that Corey Carbo and I collaborated on last summer: posters are available for purchase in her shop here!)