I’ve been offered a lot of good advice that I ignored. I’m well on my way to my thirties, so now I guess it’s my turn to proffer some unheeded advice of my own.

Many people desire a job in a creative field. They think a career spent writing, or singing, or playing music, or acting will be free of feelings of aimlessness, frustration, and tedium.

It isn’t. But just as they start taking the earliest steps towards building a career, they become disillusioned to learn that they’re often expected to work for free, and indeed are sometimes expected to already have an extensive body of work before they’ve even offered the opportunity to work for free. So they drift between low-paying service jobs, hoping that they will be handed their dream job once someone notices their “passion.”

If you want to write, or draw, or sing, or play music, or act, by all means, develop those skills. Just don’t plan your future assuming you will be able to make a living doing it.

Some of the best writers and artists that I’ve discovered don’t write and draw for a living. Instead, they see art as a key component of their lives. So every week, they write a new blog post or update a webcomic.

After a few years of consistent output, their skills have developed, and so has a following; sometimes one large enough that they can earn a few coins from their work.

Get a job you can live with. One that comfortably pays the bills, but doesn’t eat up all of your time or go home with you. Live cheaply, save money. Develop side projects related to what you really want to do.

It’s quite possible you’ll find something that sticks—it’s making money. The trick will be to transition into making that side gig a full-time job. You’ll have to save more money, ramp things up with your side project, all while holding down another job.

Or maybe none of your side projects will ever take off. Maybe time or financial constraints prevent you from honing your skills of your passion as much as you need to. Maybe the paying public just isn’t interested in your passion right now. Maybe things get interrupted with a family.1 That’s unfortunate, but none of that prevents you from writing, painting, acting, or playing music. It just means you can’t do that for a living.

“Life does not ask us what we want,” writes economist Thomas Sowell. “It presents us with options.”

  1. Or maybe your current job develops into a career that you’d like to continue pursuing.