Daily Archives: February 1, 2011

Five Tips for Creative Independence: Don’t sell your soul to the company store

by Janet Grace Riehl

Creative people in every discipline must find a way to balance the need for money and the need for time. “Don’t quit your day job,” is a rallying cry that doesn’t rally. Let’s try this slogan on for size:

Sell your services to the company store, but not your soul.

The company store sold goods at high prices and was only too happy to extend credit to mire workers more deeply in debt. In the 1960’s Tennessee Ernie Ford recorded a country ballad, Sixteen Tons.

You haul sixteen tons and what do you get?

Another day older and deeper in debt.

Saint Peter don’t you call me for I can’t go,

 I owe my soul to the company store.

 A friend just started a new job. She works as a professional writer to support her creative writing. Her job haunts her—waking and sleeping. This preoccupation about her occupation squeezes out all other thoughts. Her personal projects are indefinitely on hold. She thinks, “If only I can get enough money ahead to become creatively independent.” She’s started to sell her soul to the company store.

But, they didn’t contract for her soul—only her professional services.

 How can my friend break this all or nothing cycle which sounds so familiar?

 1) Job pairings. Is this a good job to support your creative work? Does it take so much out of you that you collapse in from of the TV when you get home rather than going into your study or studio? Would a more physical job give you time to tap into your creative juice?

2) Money, honey. Make a balance sheet. How much money do you need? How much time do you need? Make room for your heart projects.

3) Set boundaries. What does your job owe you? What do you owe your job? Give your best, but send the heroine home.

4) Set standards. Determine what’s good enough, but not over the top. Don’t cheat the company, but don’t cheat yourself either.

 5) Meaning mantra. You matter. Your work matters. Save some of that juice for yourself, Honey, and you can do. Stock and store that juice until you’re ready.


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