Artists are the hardest-working people I know.
What does work look like in the digital age? Work doesn't just mean a 9-5 anymore. It can happen anywhere with the touch of a phone or an idea jotted down in a notebook. You can't tell if that guy next to you in the coffee shop is on a conference call or talking to himself. So what does real work look like? I have to look no further than my community of artists, some of the hardest-working people I know.
Artists never turn off, never stop thinking, creating, obsessing. What must it be like, a writer friend asked me, to leave work and not have a project you're thinking and reworking in your head constantly? It must be nice, we agreed, though I know neither of us would change what we are - artists. We love that hustle, cobbling together a living (well, maybe we like it some days more than others), and sharing our passions with the world. Being an artist isn't (just) a choice; it's a compulsion we can't shake, the urge to create, to tell our truths, to share our talents with the world.
One of the hardest-working people I know is my friend Corrine, a painter, digital storyteller, and community organizer. She consults for nonprofits, works at an art gallery, has designed beer cans for Foam Brewers, where she recently created this stunning mural, paints for commission, tells stories through portraits and audio. She is making a living as an artist and organizer, which means piecing together lots of projects and being responsible for promoting herself. She is constantly on the move and is never "off." Even when she comes over to hang out, she has a notebook with her and might pause to get down a sketch or idea real quick. This is the life of the modern-day artist, who needs to not only create, revise, recreate, and repeat, but also to market herself, connect to other parts of the community, and be constantly on the move.
For those of us with day jobs in addition to our creative work, we get home from the office and get to work. Even on days where I don't actually write much/at all, I read over my work, read other's work, edit, brainstorm, submit, revise. There is never a day where I don't work on my writing (or editing others' writing) in some capacity. I recently graduated with my MFA in Fiction from the Bennington Writing Seminars and people have asked me what it feels like to be done with grad school. They expect me to say what a relief it is, how I have so much more free time, how I'm taking a break. The truth is I think I've been working even harder than I did in school. I've submitted 45 stories since graduating in January (and gotten 13 rejections, 1 acceptance - coming soon, and 1 honorable mention). I've edited a manuscript and written a dozen new stories, in various stages of completion. Even though I'm still only "working" part-time, I am working all the time. Because art is real work. And artists are some of the hardest-working people I know.