Unfortunately for today’s artists and writers, keeping a day job is often a necessary fact of life. It’s especially hard when you’re first starting out to convince others that your talent is worth enough money to pay for the little things (like rent and cat food). You know how important your art is, but your food service or retail job probably doesn’t share your priorities. Getting through an ordinary day at work can sometimes seem like an insurmountable task, especially when you know your time could be better spent creating something worthwhile instead of ringing up a long line of customers. Here are some tips for surviving your day job and holding on to your fragile, artistic sanity.
Developing a dark sense of humor about the time you’re wasting at your day job is often crucial to your emotional well-being. One way to do this is to log the exact amount of time you have left until you are set free to resume your “real life.” Upon arriving at work, look at the clock and figure out exactly how much time you’ve got left to before you can leave. Feel free to announce to friendly co-workers that you have nine hours, six minutes, and fifty-three seconds left to go. This is especially funny if you’re working a double shift and have a good fourteen hours of work ahead of you.
Since you are probably checking the clock frequently throughout your workday anyway, make a note of how many hours, minutes, and seconds you’ve got left every time you look. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly minutes and hours drop off your departure time. For a real laugh riot, keep a paper log of how often you look at the clock and figure out the average of minutes passed at every time check. You can play mental games with yourself, too. Tell yourself you will not resume your countdown until at least half an hour has gone by, and increase your goal as you get better at mentally estimating your amount of captivity left.
Found Object Olympics
Everything in your workplace is fair game for friendly competition. While working at a local pizza place one extremely slow summer, we turned food tub lids into Frisbees and played catch. We also used rolls of masking tape and brooms to play floor hockey. Lately, inflated latex gloves have been making great volleyballs for tournaments involving our light-up Coke sign.
If your current day job doesn’t involve food service, don’t despair. Plenty of other found objects at work make excellent sporting equipment. Have contests with your co-workers to see how many pieces of paper you can staple together without breaking the company stapler. Compete to see who can create the most accurate sculpture of a tree or a baby out of paper clips. You might consider taking up origami as a way to dispose of unwanted paper clutter in your work area. Because these mindless games rely on everyday objects, the possibilities for mild amusement are endless.
Not only are the objects at your work place fair game for amusement, the people are too. While jokes of a violent or sexual nature are grounds for termination, you can have good clean fun at the expense of your co-workers without getting into too much trouble. If you’re computer savvy enough to pull it off, change the wallpaper on a co-worker’s computer to display annoying dancing gerbils. You can also change colors to puke greens and fluorescent pinks to give those with less computer knowledge a real headache.
Cartoons in the employee bathroom go a long way to increasing levity at work, as long as they are more goofy than offensive. A classic “Kick Me” sign on the back of the boss’ chair will also produce a snicker or two, but never admit guilt to that particular prank!
Perhaps it’s not your job or your co-workers getting you down, but the management. In this case, you need to pull out all your reserved strength for a dose of reverse psychology. When corrected repeatedly for your failure to follow corporate policy to a T, say “Thank you,” as if being corrected was the best thing that could have happened to get you back on track. Here are a couple of examples:
Boss: “A large pizza gets 21 pepperonis, not 22.
You: “Oh. Thank you.”
Boss: “You’re wearing white socks. The dress code states very clearly that employees must wear black socks.”
You: “Thank you for noticing. I’ll wear my black socks tomorrow.”
Experiment showing your gratitude in different situations. You’ll get some priceless looks of surprise and disbelief for all the thanking you find yourself doing, but it’s the kind of response that a boss never expects. You’ll never get yourself in trouble for this kind of sarcasm, and you can snicker silently to yourself later.
Drafting the Letter of Resignation
When all else fails to keep you sane at your day job, you’ll inevitably fantasize about quitting. That’s okay, except you have the job because you need the money and probably can’t afford to quit just yet. You can channel your creative energy into pretending to quit, though, and get a pretty high level of satisfaction without the financial hardship that follows.
Practice drafting letters of resignation, the more ridiculous the better. State the importance of your art, claim to have joined a traveling circus, or cite the number of paper cuts you receive during an average week on the job. When you’ve run out of reasons to quit, use company toilet paper or paper bags to write your letters of resignation. Don’t actually leave your letters laying around, though, or they might start looking for your replacement prematurely.