Los Angeles, CA

Quitting Your Day Job is a Great Way to Stunt Your Creative Growth

Ryan Porter

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Years ago, I helped create a machine that churned out ideas on the fly.

The machine was a startup, and we sold bottles of matcha green tea. I believed in the product because it was a healthy but tasty alternative to the usual cup of coffee.

I was a recent college grad selling a tangible product to real people. I watched people consume my tea with my own eyes. I was flabbergasted when people said they liked it.

“This is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. The calories aren’t half bad either. Can I buy some?”

My business partner and I were motivated, but we felt like something was deterring us from taking our company to the moon. We both worked afternoon to late evenings and were sick of it. We thought we’d be better off if we just quit our jobs.

Thankfully, we didn’t take it that far. I didn’t want to quit my job unless the startup paid me. That day never came, and I left the startup after the pandemic knocked on our door.

I always wondered, though:

What would it be like to make the side-hustle the main hustle?

I had the chance to test it for myself last month while I transitioned jobs. I inadvertently had more time than I knew what to do with, so I tried making a go at going all-in on my “content” pursuits. Here’s what I’ve learned about creative motivation when we’re jobless.

A job is a motivating factor.

You might think that a day job is a wall in the way of your dreams. A job is an expectation of completing work for someone else’s gain. It’s purely a responsibility on your end that needs to be done whether or not you like it.

I used to think this way, but my perspective has shifted. It all started with the pandemic when I saw many of my friends apply for unemployment because they lost their jobs. I was one of the lucky ones who kept his.

Then I had a lot of time off (more time than expected). I learned that when there are no tasks you necessarily have to do, it’s easy not to do anything. You have to be an incredibly motivated person to wake up and work on a business day in and day out.

In Jason Schreier’s novel, “Blood, Sweat, and Pixels,” Eric Barone, the solo developer of Stardew Valley, struggled to work at times on his game.

“For four years now, Barone had sat by himself at a computer, rarely talking to anyone…He had no coworkers with whom to bounce around ideas, nobody to meet for lunch and a kvetch session about the latest game industry trends.”

Even Barone got a job as an usher at a movie theater to interact with people from time to time. Working for yourself is a lonely job.

Having a day job keeps you locked in for a full day of work. It’s motivating to do work and get paid for it. When you aren’t doing anything other than writing, you don’t see the results right away.

The rewards come much later, if at all, so it can be extremely depressing when you don’t see yourself getting any closer to your goals.

Office work habits don’t perfectly translate.

After 20 years of working in the same office, my dad worked from home for one week. I passed by his temporary office in the dining room from time to time, and he seemed to be enjoying himself.

He kicked his feet up, the dog was on his lap, and he seemed relaxed on the phone. Then he told me he never wanted to do it again.

His routine is set in stone. Altering it, especially after so many years, was a jarring experience for him. Nothing felt right. To take away the habits one has built up in one place and take it somewhere else is hard to do.

Before you think about packing your things and giving your boss the 2-week notice, you should consider how it’ll affect your day-to-day.

A day job makes your dream come to fruition much faster.

Stress and creativity go together like peanut butter and jelly, especially when you try to force creativity to help you realize your dream faster.

Writers create stories hoping for them to be accepted by publications. If they have nothing else in life going on, and they’re banking everything on submission, rejection feels like the end of the world.

Having a day job and a couple of side hustles is like having a well-diversified portfolio. You could have a bad day at work, but at least your recent story brought in three new email subscribers.

Success masks previous failures every time.

You might require a financial incentive.

I can’t think of a better motivator than money. How do I know? I’m a kid considering moving out by himself in Los Angeles.

I’m not going to waste my time on tasks that don’t guarantee payment.

Writing is fun when it feels right. If I have a good story idea, I feel obligated to write it. The problem arrives when I try to force story ideas I don’t love.

I ask myself why I’m doing it at all. I know I might impact someone positively. That's the great thing about writing, but it’s hard to do it repeatedly when it doesn’t add to my livelihood.

Maybe I’m just not ready for it because financially, I’m not there yet. There’s a lesson for you to learn here too.

To give back, you need to be in a position to give. That means accomplishing some of your short-term goals first, like having a savings account you can live off for 6-months in case the wheels come off. You achieve that by living with your parents after graduating from college.

Make a positive impact on other people’s lives by creating an exemplary life for yourself.

Final thought

I know you’ve thought about it. You want to write the next great American novel. I say do it but don’t be so quick to quit your day job.

As we now know, your salary isn’t safe. It’s almost necessary to have a hustle on the side if you want to live a comfortable life. That doesn’t mean it deserves 100% of your creative attention.

Locking yourself inside without any interaction or quitting your job without the chance to bounce business ideas with your colleagues hurts your creative spirit more than it helps.

Jobs aren’t always supposed to be fun, but you’ll realize that neither is a side hustle if you make it your daily grind. Work is work, even if it’s something you love.

Keep the side hustle as a side dish, and you’ll find that it is more successful because of it.

Want to create full-time, but need some motivating factors?

Even in today’s digital times, there are ways to interact and get to know fellow writers, photographers, and content creators of all mediums.

The world is opening again, so you can meet up for coffee with colleagues. Slack and Facebook groups are also available for like-minded individuals.

Be a part of a community that cheers you on from the digital sidelines.

Office water station banter is dead. Remote work is the future of the creative industry. I’m here for it, but that doesn’t mean I’m quitting my job just yet. The trick is to put your eggs in as many baskets as possible.

If one cracks, you have plenty more to fry.

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I write about startup culture, productivity, and life's moments. My goal is to serve as a teacher for the next generation of content creators.

Los Angeles, CA
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