How to Get Out from Under the Soul Sucking Day Job

How are you going to be creative if your 9-to-5 job is sucking away at your soul?

It’s all in how you package it! My Dad used to say of his 9-to-5 job working in a windowless cubicle, “I always remind myself, I could still be staring at the back side of a mule.” How’s that for motivation?

I’m not advising that you make the best of it by comparing your soul sucking job to the more soul sucking alternative. I’m advocating a more forward-thinking approach that has made all the difference for me.

Many years ago, I found myself in a position whereby the day jobs were beginning to pull at my threads and unraveling my seams.

I was homeschooling my two children. I was trying to contribute to the family coffers by working weekends at the family owned and operated antique mall, and I was managing my first duplex rental property. I was also trying to be creative with my words. Something had to give.

No, no, no, I did not give away the children, and I still wanted to be a part of the family antique mall. I had a booth there as well, so I had to go out at some point and hunt for goods for my little store. Basically, I was doing a lot of things and none of them all that well and it was beginning to suck my soul.

So I repackaged what I was doing.

RePackaging Yourself.

First, you have to figure out what it is about your job that is sucking your soul. In my case, it was simply that it was not the job of being a writer, so I took a moment to think about what I was doing and how it might be done if I was a writer. Below is an example of my process:

Identify what it is that you want to be when you grow up

In my case, I wanted to be a writer, but you can insert the art medium of your choice: painter, ceramist, photographer…

Again, in my case, it’s always been about writing. So I thought about what I was currently doing and how I might better align those things with my dream job.

Property management.

My duplex house was across town. I was still doing the lawn care, because I didn’t want to be a bad neighbor, but with two small children, keeping up was taking its toll and being a property manager – that kind of property manager – did not align with my dream of being a writer. So I sold it. This is not something I do lightly. I think of property like the game of Monopoly. If possible, don’t sell. Never sell Park Place and never EVER sell or mortgage Baltic and Mediterranean! But I sold my little Baltic Avenue, and I took the proceeds and plowed them into a little “cottage” in my back yard. Almost immediately, I was able to rent it on a short-term basis as a “writers’ retreat”. Just making that one little change altered my outlook. Sure, it wasn’t bringing in as much (gross) as the duplex across town, but once you figured in the fact that I was no longer paying a mortgage on that duplex, no longer schlepping across town… and I had created something I could conceivably use for my own writing, it created a huge shift in my thinking. (Note. Today, I am happy to say the cottage is booked more often than not, so I don’t use it as my own writer’s retreat but providing it for other writers has been soul-enriching.) Curious? You can see (and book) it here:

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/487795?guests=1&adults=1&s=nrCoZRPR

Antiques.

I had a booth in the family’s antique mall, but as I have mentioned before, I am not a gambler with my money. I’ve never felt confident going out and spending perfectly good money, risking the investment in something that may or may not sell for a profit. But I love books! So it never really felt like a gamble to buy/find used books that I myself might want to read. And so long as I priced it competitively above whatever I paid, I felt like it wasn’t a risk if it didn’t sell. Instead, I was just creating a really big “to-be-read” pile. In my little 10ft. by 10ft. booth, I started selling a few hundred dollars worth of books per month, a little less than I was making on the antiques, but it was a pleasure, and once again, it started to fill my soul and allow me to see myself in my dream role – as a writer.

Once you’ve settled on the goal, make the plan. Set a date.

Do you want to be working a 3-day week at your 9-to-5 job and have the other four days to pursue your passion? Look at your finances. Can you live on 3 days worth of income? Do you have those passive income streams set-up? When will they take effect?

The Children. Private school was not an option. $$$. Public school had proven to be a less than ideal fit for my quirky artistic children. And I never felt fully qualified to homeschool my kids. WHAT? They’re my own kids, for crying out loud, and what is the “right way”. That’s about the same time I discovered a thing called unschooling. At its worst, it’s free-range chaos. At its best, it’s a beautiful, child-centered, enriching thing with few constraints or limitations. I won’t get on my soap-box, because I’m sure that soap box looks as different for every homeschooling/unschooling parent as there are children. I made a return to the structure of their Montessori pre-school days and “followed the child” within a structured environment. It never ceases to amaze me, where they have taken me. I taught them to pursue their interests, and in so doing, I learned as much myself about following my own passions wherever they may lead.

Recently, I made another shift. I bought one of those nice little sheds, you know the kind? Two windows, a door in the center, and about 12ft. by 20ft. Then my mother-in-law gave us her little windowless shed when she moved into a condo. So all that stuff that was going to be stored in the cute shed, hand tools, lawn mowers, etc., could be moved to the windowless shed. And voila, my office was born. Okay, it’s still a shed stuffed with furniture that will eventually be used in my office once it’s insulated, heated/cooled, drywalled, painted…. But there is a plan. And how do I make it pay for itself? Those ancillary rentals on the same property just got a whole lot more appealing when you read that there is a “Little Free Library” on the property… that is an actual library! Yes, my office will be a 12ft by 20ft. library, filled with that crazy “to-be-read” pile of books, to share with guests and neighbors!

If you’re reading this, I’m thinking, maybe, you have one of those soul-sucking jobs. So here’s your assignment: think about the cross-overs between your current job and your writing, or other dream endeavor. Are you tired of working behind a desk for a large corporation? Could you cut your expenses and take a lower paying job that allowed you to go part-time? What if you rented out a room in your house? Could you give up the soul sucking job altogether for something more in keeping with your dreams? Does it mean shifting your hours at work to ensure you free-up your ideal creative hours for pursuing your art? Think about what you’re doing that’s eating away at your dream of pursuing your passion and shift the way you look at it.

Now, Go Write Some Words.

(Disclaimer: This series consists of my humble opinion. Every situation is different. This is simple homespun advice based on my own experiences. Seek business counsel, accounting advice, legal advice, from a professional.)

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