A Creative’s Guide to Surviving the Cubicle

I attempt to chew my Chex Mix quietly, but the sound of crunching reverberates around the office. Every well groomed head turns in my direction, staring at me in silent disgust over the dividers as I try to enjoy the one thing – THE ONE THING – that brightens my day.

Oh give me a break’, I think as I swallow the unhealthy goodness that is Chex Mix. ‘Don’t even pretend that you were actually working.’ 

They turn away slowly and the whispers begin. If only we had a water cooler…

To be honest, I never, EVER thought I would be working in an office. But not only that, I am in a cubicle. A CUBICLE.

I’m a musician, writer, performer and motivational speaker and I sit next to a cabinet filled with office supplies and colleagues making cold calls. To say this is the last place I expected to be would be an understatement.

When I first started working here, I wondered if my need for a stable income was going to kill the creative spark that drives me. I worried that the ‘grind’ would slowly disintegrate my inner artist until I became just another cog in the machine. To prevent that from happening, I came up with a few ways to utilize my creativity so it wouldn’t be crushed under the OTE’s and daily stress.

Therefore, whether you are in a position similar to mine or are contemplating getting a ‘normal’ job while your creative dreams are still alive and well, I hope these five tips can be like stars brightening the dark sky that is the unknown, bringing light to the artist in the office.

Tip #1: Use your creativity on your breaks.

I cannot tell you how many times I have taken my lunch to the cafeteria/eating place/area where everyone stares uncomfortably at each other and have written lyrics to songs that I finish later that night. Ketchup drips on my notebook, and nonsensical sales speak surrounds me, but none of that matters because I am creating. Even if only for an hour while a hamburger is stuffed in my face, I am doing what I love. All that to say, take the off times in your job to strengthen your craft. Not only will you continually get better at your passion, but doing what you love in those off moments will give you some middle-of-the-day motivation to get you through to 5 o’clock.

Tip #2: Learn as much as possible from your current job for your future creative business.

Let’s be real; to survive in the uber competitive world of being a full time creative – whether that be an artist, writer, musician or whatever – you have to build a business that runs like a well oiled machine. You can’t just be talented anymore; you have to be your own mini mogul in your own mini empire to outlast the competition of hobbyists and pipe dreamers. It’s a job, and to thrive in that job, there are things you have to know. How to sell your talent to an initially uninterested audience is one of them (HAHA sales!). How to manage your time and be motivated enough to meet self set goals in your creative endeavors is another. How to deal with difficult people who get in the way of your dreams is a third. All of these nuggets of knowledge are things you can stow away for when you get your creative empire up and running. Don’t waste this opportunity to learn them! 

Tip #3: Incorporate your creative self into your job.

If you think about it, one of the reasons you probably got this job in the first place was because your now-boss saw something special in you. And you know what’s super special? Creativity. Are you an artist? Is your boss looking for a presentation on how your product can be leveraged in the education market to zzzZZZZzzzz….. oh sorry. Anyway, then make a presentation that shines. Design slides that catch the eye but don’t overwhelm the content. Add flare that still coincides with the message of the company but brings something interesting and exciting to what you are presenting. Not only will you get to flex your creative muscles, but your audience will probably weep with gratitude.

Tip #4: Use this experience in your job to fuel your creativity.

Does Robert’s sexism in the office just make you want to rip your hair out? Write a song about it. Inspire and relate to the many women who feel unheard as they go through the similar experiences in their workplaces. Does Denice’s drama make you wish that you could simply walk out and never come back? Take that gossipy goose and write a short story about her. Anything can be used as inspiration for your true artistic passion. You just have to open your eyes to the world of possibilities and imagine that even the most mundane things can be fodder for your next masterpiece.

Tip #5: Never, EVER give up on your artistic dream.

All because you are currently in a position that doesn’t fulfill your every fantasy, doesn’t mean you will never get to live your dream. The only thing that will kill your chance at success is if you settle for where you are in the moment rather than strive for where you want to be in the future. Take this time of having a steady pay check to become really good at your current job AND at what you love to do. Take the weekends to play gigs. Use your nights to paint pieces that challenge you to grow in your gift. As a result, you won’t see your time at this job as a waste – rather it will be a training ground for what’s ahead. 

The main conclusion I came to as I slowly went blind aggregating data into a spreadsheet, was that you cannot give up on yourself. You are an ARTIST. The world needs your creativity. People are desperate to be inspired and you have what it takes to be that inspiration. You are not less of an artist for having a day job. Work with a purpose. Look towards the future. And become better and more inspired by what you do today.

Originally published October 11th, 2017 on bevalyouable.com