If stuck at home during the pandemic or working outside of your artistic passion becomes a rut, here is some motivation by Stephen King, Tom Cruise, Brad Meltzer, and others.
I wrote “How to Survive a Day Job,” the long out-of-print book that this article is based on, back in 2004. It was released the following year, and contained nearly 75 interviews with public figures and aspiring artists about how to transform one’s artistic passion into a viable career.
As I was perusing the book for the first time in a decade, I realized just how much of it is relevant to today.
If you are stuck at home working and/or practicing social isolation, this just may be the perfect opportunity for a creative artist to spread their wings and spend more time than usual on their craft.
To that end, the following are some quotes from “How to Survive a Day Job” that I hope you find inspiring.
Note: Some of the contributors below have since passed on; their names are proceeded by a (D).
“Don’t share your ambitions with anybody who you sense is going to be negative about them.” — Clive Barker, author
“It’s a matter of prioritizing.” — Stephen J. Cannell (D), television writer and producer, author
“At the core is wonder.” — Andrei Codrescu, author
“I realized I could learn anything that I wanted to learn.” — Tom Cruise, actor
“If you are able to take care and provide, the muses are going to speak to you better.” — Richard Paul Evans, author
“Do something every day, whether you think it’s good or not.” — Alan Dean Foster, author
“The purpose of story is to illuminate” — Father Andrew Greeley (D), priest, author
“You are who you say you are. I was a writer long before I sold the first short story.” — Laurell K. Hamilton, author
“It was a night for dreaming.” — Stephen King (There should be time for plenty of dreaming over the next few weeks or months — Joel)
“The inspiration and the nagging need to write is what it takes to do what I’ve done.” — Jonathan Kirsch, author
“If you do something that you have a passion for, you’re going to get really good at it, and the money will come.” — Kelly Lange, television news producer and anchor, author
“Each job has its own special joy.” — Sir Ian McKellen, actor
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you no.” — Brad Meltzer, author
“Have a real open mind and always want to learn.” — David Meltzer, newsletter writer
“If you don’t realize how badly you’re bucking the odds, you’ll be better off.” — Thomas Perry, author
“You have to be kind of clueless as to how tough it is.” — Robert Hayes, actor
“Don’t take yourself too seriously.” — David Hess (D), actor
“Strive for your goals and save your money!” — Larry Holmes, boxer
“The mansions are within.” — Sally Kirkland, actress
“Where did you get all this drive? Poverty.” — Ernest H. Martin (D), Broadway producer
“Drive and ambition will do it every time.” — Wink Martindale, game show host
“Minimize the gamble.” — Gene Perrett (D), writer
“If you stick with it, your talent will carry you as far as it can.” — Russ Streiner, actor
“Just know who you are.” — Dee Wallace Stone, actress
My three Ps: Passion, Patience, Perserverence.” — Robert Wise, director
“Do it when you’re young and single.” — Doug Preston, author
“If you spend a lot of time despising your real life, you’ll have much less time to follow your dream life.” — Carolyn See (D), author
“You have to make the time and sacrifice.” — Lisa See, author
“Be tenacious and talk to everybody.” — Nancy Tellum, former television network executive
“You will have to find time.” — Stuart Woods, author
“It’s not about taking defeat personally.” — Mike Connors (D), actor
“Will I die if I don’t do this?” — Ted Donaldson, actor
“You really have to love what you’re doing.” — Jamie Farr, actor
“Work breeds work.” — Larry Hagman (D), actor
“In the end, you can’t do it unless you can imagine it.” — George Lucas, writer-director, producer
I would like to thank the following for the reprinted quotes above, used with permission when excepting interviews for the book:
For Tom Cruise: People, July 21, 2003, interview conducted by Jess Cagle. Copyright © 2003 Time Inc.
For Stephen King: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King, reprinted with the permission of Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group. Copyright © 2000 by Stephen King.
The following quotes are older, and were all included in “How to Survive a Day Job.”
“I think that whole worlds are opening up to us that are only limited by our imaginations.” — Jim Henson, puppeteer, producer
“There are no limits to growth and human progress, when men and women are free to follow their dreams.” — Ronald Reagan, 40th U.S. President
“There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.” — Victor Hugo
“If, at first, an idea is not absurd, there is no hope for it.” — Albert Einstein
“Before the beginning of great brilliance, there must be chaos. Before a brilliant person begins something great, they must look foolish to the crowd.” — I Ching
“There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who, with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun.” — Pablo Picasso
“No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling the field as in writing a poem.” — Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery: An Autobiography, 1901
“We work in the dark — we do what we can — we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.” — Henry James, “The Middle Years”
I would like to thank Judy Harris, who conducted the interview from which Jim Henson is quoted, above, on September 21, 1982. Used with permission.
Did You Know?
Tim Allen was a creative director for an ad agency?
Tori Amos played piano in Los Angeles bars?
Pamela Anderson was a spokesmodel for a beer company?
Maya Angelou was a streetcar conductor in San Francisco (breaking the color and sex barrier)?
Jennifer Aniston was a waitress?
Giorgio Armani was a medical assistant for the Italian military?
Stone Cold Steve Austin loaded trucks at a freight terminal?
Alec Baldwin was a waiter and doorman at Studio 54?
Antonio Banderas was a waiter?
Lance Bass was a day care worker?
Kathy Bates was a gift shop cashier at New York’s Museum of Modern Art?
Warren Beatty was a bricklayer?
Annette Bening was a cook on a charter boat?
Jason Biggs was a Subway sandwich artist?
Billy Blanks was a garbage man?
Marlon Brando was an elevator operator?
Garth Brooks was a nightclub bouncer?
Mel Brooks was a drummer?
Sandra Bullock was a waitress?
Steve Buscemi was a New York City firefighter?
Michael Caine was a cement mixer?
Drew Carey was a waiter at Denny’s?
Mariah Carey was a waitress and hat checker?
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was a tax collector?
Tom Clancy was an insurance agent?
Eric Clapton was a construction worker?
George Clooney was an insurance salesman?
Sean Connery was a coffin polisher?
Elvis Costello was a computer programmer?
Michael Crichton was a professor of anthropology?
Russell Crowe was a bartender?
Kristen Davis was a waitress?
Ellen DeGeneres sold vacuum cleaners?
Johnny Depp sold pens over the phone?
Danny DeVito was a hairdresser?
Vin Diesel was a bouncer?
David Duchovny was a teaching assistant?
Robert Duvall was a truck driver?
Clint Eastwood was a lumberjack?
Jon Favreau was a maintenance worker?
Will Ferrell was a sportscaster?
Harrison Ford was a carpenter?
Jamie Foxx was a shoe salesman?
James Gandolfini was a bouncer?
Whoopi Goldberg was a makeup artist for a funeral parlor?
Cuba Gooding Jr. was a construction worker?
John Goodman was a bouncer?
Gene Hackman was a truck driver?
Goldie Hawn was a go-go dancer?
Dustin Hoffman sold toys at Macy’s?
Anthony Hopkins was a steelworker?
Chris Isaak was a funeral parlor assistant?
Hugh Jackman was a cashier at a health club?
Samuel L. Jackson was a security guard?
James Earl Jones was a janitor?
Harvey Keitel was a shoe salesman?
David E. Kelley was an attorney?
Martin Lawrence was a gas station attendant?
Jay Leno was a Rolls-Royce mechanic?
David Letterman was a weatherman?
Lucy Liu was an aerobics instructor?
William H. Macy was an acting teacher?
Julianne Moore was a waitress?
Bill Murray was a pizza chef?
Willie Nelson was a Bible salesman?
Leslie Nielsen was a radio announcer?
Nick Nolte was an ironworker?
Al Pacino was a building superintendent?
Luciano Pavarotti was an elementary schoolteacher?
David Hyde Pierce was a church organist?
Brad Pitt dressed as a chicken to promote El Pollo Loco?
Burt Reynolds was a bouncer?
Anne Rice was an insurance claims adjuster?
Julia Roberts worked in an ice cream shop?
Ray Romano was a futon delivery man?
Carlos Santana was a dishwasher?
Jerry Seinfeld sold light bulbs over the phone?
Snoop Dogg delivered newspapers?
David Spade worked in a skateboard shop?
Jon Stewart was a bike mechanic?
Oliver Stone was a New York City taxi driver?
Meryl Streep was a waitress?
Barbra Streisand was a switchboard operator?
Uma Thurman was a dishwasher?
Shania Twain was a secretary?
Robin Williams was a street mime?
Joel Eisenberg, the author of this article, sorted laundry at a mental hospital?
It’s all true.
If they can transform their circumstance, you can too.
So, the next time you catch something uncomfortable on the news about the Coronavirus, as you practice social isolation appreciate that the time you would have traveled back and forth to work may now — if you appropriately manage that time — be utilized to also effectively manage, and practice, your craft.
Remember always, though …
“Be so good at something you can’t be ignored.” — Steve Martin
“It’s all bullshit ‘till the check clears.” — Joel Eisenberg
Thank you Jean-Luc Picard.
And thank you for reading.