WEIGH IN: Studio 360 Survey

Friday, June 13, 2008

If you had the skills or talent to switch jobs and your career -- right now -- to become a musician, painter, filmmaker, actor, singer, playwright or novelist, and you would earn at least as much money as you do now, would you do it?

Comments [60]

Jeff from Washington, DC

I've been listening to your stories about people giving up their jobs to become artists and I have a slightly different trajectory. I'm an artist who decided to take a full time job but with certain creative caveats. I used to teach college photography and computer graphics. Teaching allowed me to make a living but also time to do my own art. One day I was offered a full time job to be creative at an art museum in their burgeoning New Media department developing Web sites. I would have to give up my free time to work my first 40-hour/week job.
Being creative is about the most important part of my life. So I couldn't take a job just for the money or security. It had to be something where I could use my creativity. I now work with artworks at the museum. In many ways it's a dream job. Would I give up my job to become a full time artist once more? I'm not so sure. With a full time job, however, I had to find a way and the time to be creative on a personal level. I decided to find an artform that would fit in to my new organizational life so I started writing.
Eight years ago, I created Life Outtacontext to write stories (http://life.outtacontext.com). It was a logical extension of my photographic work: observing and commenting on the world around me. And it fit my new life style: I could do it in short spurts and it was portable. And the wonderful thing about my writing is that I'm creating a written scrapbook of our lives, similar to the photos I make.

Jun. 27 2008 04:31 PM
Leslie Erganian from San Francisco

Courtney Love once wisely noted that "Artists are the sharecroppers of the world." Until that changes, it may well be that those of us who choose to pursue creative work, must from time to time set down our own artistic ideals down and apply our craft in service of earning the bigger bucks. The secret to staying centered in your own creativity no matter what you are doing for a living, is in making art out of your life and seeing the art in your life. To that end I've created the website Leslieness.com devoted to helping others find the artist within and illuminating the creative process, and a daily blog called "See More With Les" therein that I hope helps other to find more art in their own lives. Apropos the upcoming Simon Doonan guest appearance on Studio 360, my June 6th entry entitled Bergdorf Goodman Bugs also focused on window displays as art. With Doonan one of the reigning masters of the form, I can't wait to hear the broadcast.

Jun. 26 2008 02:50 PM
Darrell Eisman from Palm Desert, California

I owned a residential/commercial design business in Los Angeles for 25 yeats, and five years ago moved to the desert. I traded my office in Los Angeles for a topless doorless Jeep here in the desert where I am a desert guide and take people out into the Colorado/Sonoran desert to places like Joshua Tree and into the San Andreas fault. I am not making nearly the money, but I found my bliss and have never been happier.

Jun. 23 2008 01:13 AM
Paul Epton from Minneapolis, MN

I missed the original survey, but tonight's comment about changing schedules struck a chord. 27 years ago, after a PhD and 2-1/2 years of work at General Motors' corporate research labs, I quit without knowing what was next. Some months later, I started what has become a career as a theatrical lighting technician and designer. I'd previously done college and community theatre, so it wasn't a completely new venture. After a few months of part time work, I got a full time job at a small theatre. It lasted 11 years, and I never thought that I had the temperament to freelance. Circumstances changed, I moved from Detroit to Minneapolis without a permanent position, and haven't looked back ... nor have I even tried for several full time jobs that I likely would have gotten if I'd applied. Freelancing gives me too many different pieces of my career, and I'd have to give up many if I went full time.

Jun. 23 2008 12:17 AM
Howard Albrecht from Sherman Oaks, California

I did just that. At the age of 42 and after working at a large chain of women's clothing stores, of which I was a part owner, I went to Los Angeles and became a comedy writer on television. (You can't do that today, I'd be too old) In my 30 year career I wrote for the likes of Bob Hope, Dean Martin, Alan King, Milton Berle and almost everyone in between.

I never regretted changing careers even though there were many, many difficult years.

My advice is: When you leave a steady paying job with a wife and kids depending on you and you become a freelance anything, who thinks, "when I finish this job I'll never work again." You better have a great wife and kids and most of all you better love what you're doing.
I knew I did the right thing when work became fun and I couldn't wait to wake up in the morning to do it.

Jun. 22 2008 10:48 PM
krem bloshy from burbank, ca

i am paid very well to spend my days painting backgrounds for a very popular cartoon show. i hear regularly from people touring the studio about how they are jealous of my dream job. i would quit tomorrow and pursue works of my own imagining, but for the need to sustain my family. i would gladly take the deal. the people who hesitate or choose not, have never experienced the intense high that comes from creating.

Jun. 22 2008 10:46 PM
Janice Schoultz Mudd from St. Louis, MO

Absolutely I would do it. Actually I did it eight years ago it and I look back with a great big smile. To me, it is a feeling of great relief to be able to make art; to paint, without having to scratch around for spare minutes to do it. Like so many artists, the need to create does not diminish with lack of available time. It simmers and boils under the surface constantly looking for that weak spot in which to find its release. I am extremely fortunate that my family supports my decision, because we all have to deal with the financial ramifications, but to live your life following your heart - there is no substitute.
www.janiceschoultzmudd.com - please look.

Jun. 22 2008 09:52 PM

After getting my Electrical Engineering degree and spending six years as an engineer in Silicon Valley, I said to myself, "Self ... why have a respected and lucrative career in engineering, when you can go make movies?"

"But I don't know anything about making movies" I retorted.

After pondering my dilemma for a while, it occurred to me, "Hmmm ... why not go back to school and learn how to make movies?"

Eventually, I finally said, "Dude, why are you talking to yourself so much? People are starting to look at us funny."

In a questionable moment of clarity, we sold our condo, packed up the family, and I enrolled in the Film Studies program at my Alma Mater in another state.

Fortunately, my lovely wife warmed up to the idea of a possible career change, and eventually started speaking with me again. I also have not talked out-loud to myself since.

After four solid years of unemployment, I decided that it was a bad idea to completely run out of money, so I went back to Engineering and started paying the bills again.

My goal is still to finish writing and shoot my full length feature by the end of the decade-ish.

Give or take.

Jun. 22 2008 09:32 PM
Art Kosatka from Washington DC suburbs

Absolutely !! Already done it many times, from early career as radio DJ and newsman, to the middle of Watergate, to national politics on both US House and Senate staffs, to aviation lobbyist, to Federal bureaucrat, to nationally known airport security consultant. That's a 3-beer story, but my philosophy is that five years in any one job is the maximum point at which you stop learning, and just keeping doing the same thing over and over.

Jun. 22 2008 04:38 PM
Duff from Bronxville, NY

Sure, I'd switch. I currently own a small firm that does fundraising and management consulting for nonprofit organizations, but would jump at the opportunity to put the same amount of time and effort into the visual arts (painting or photography).

Jun. 22 2008 12:25 PM
Nicole from California

Much like some of the comments here, I am trying to do just that right now. I recently quit a full time job to pursue art. Now I work part time and work on developing my visual art career part time. I would quit the part time job in a second, if I could pay my rent with art. Even though I do still need to work, my art dreams are already getting fulfilled by taking myself seriously and realizing that it is possible to make time to do something I love and pursue a dream. If you would like to see some of my work, visit: bluebicicletta.wordpress.com

Jun. 22 2008 01:15 AM
LC from Californai

When I was listening tonight, the answer to "why not?"seemed obvious. No, of course not. Why? I have absolutely no talents of any kind: can't act, sing, dance, play an instrument, write fiction, do any kind of arts & crafts, design, sew, etc., etc. And, it is possible, that an above-average percent of those people who go to college do so precisely because they have no artistic talents.

It was only when I came to your web site to state the obvious, that I saw the the proviso "if you had the talent".

So, how did the survey org. frame the question?

Jun. 22 2008 01:03 AM
Tim from Colorado Springs, CO

I am currently in the transition stage of switching from my high tech career in semiconductors to an artistic means of earning a living as a photographer. I worked for nearly 18 years in the semiconductor industry, specifically in the failure analysis area. I found that some of my skills I obtained in semiconductors are translating into photography.

In failure analysis a picture of a tiny microscopic defect many times saved the day and gave key information in driving a fix to a particular problem. I never thought of myself as an artist but being a failure analysis engineer in semiconductors requires an artistic touch in gathering data.

My passions all involve outdoor activities and I spend nearly all my free time pursuing the great outdoors. I decided a few years ago that I should start carrying a camera with me on my adventures. I soon discovered that I have a knack for photography as the concepts of photography are very similar to microscopy.

A recent plant closure and a required move to other states in order to keep a job made the decision easier for me to leave semiconductors. I’m still early in the transition process and haven’t made any money yet, but I sure do love and appreciate this chance I’ve been give to pursue something that I really love to do and have the freedom that comes with it.

Jun. 21 2008 05:09 PM
Lynn from Dallas, TX

As I listened to your broadcast of the question of becoming a full time artist, I burst into tears. I used to be a full time artist, supporting myself and family for about 20 years as an illustrator and woodcarver. About 7 years ago, my husband, who is also self employed, became ill with no cure in sight. Since he was making less and less in his business and self employment insurance costs soared out of reach, I felt compelled to get a job with insurance and that guaranteed a salary we could count on. Luckily, I was able to become an art teacher. I love teaching and teaching art, but I would go back to "Artist" with no regrets. I would continue to volunteer in schools, however. It has been hard to learn to describe myself as "Teacher" rather than "artist" - I have settled on "artist educator".

Jun. 21 2008 03:22 PM
mpho from Alexandria, va

I wouldn't. As an Episcopal priest and a mother I get to be artist, singer, actor, creative talent every day of my life!

Jun. 21 2008 01:57 PM
ericka hamburg from new york

In spite of the world getting smaller, there remains nothing more fulfilling than ferreting out some aspect of it, whether near or far, and documenting my observations in words and images, then seeing the story in print. I've been doing it for almost 15 years, but aided by a day job, which I would toss in a flash if it proved unnecessary for survival.


Jun. 21 2008 11:22 AM
Alexis from New Jersey

Yes, Yes, Yes!!!!! If I had more creative talent and could make the same amount of money I would definitely leave my current position. I love photography but I'm certainly not talented enough to consider leaving corporate America to do it full time. I have been doing quite a bit of soul searching as of late and plan to make my escape from Corp. America in the next 1 -2 years, but I plan to work in the family business- embroidery.... not as sexy as art but far better than a cubicle.

Jun. 21 2008 11:12 AM
kathleen from brooklyn, ny

I already left IT work to teach--in fact, i was doing IT work pretty much only to pay off one set of student loans and save some for grad school, so I could teach. But would I leave it? I'd leave to write, but I'd probably wind up teaching on a volunteer basis somewhere. Both writing and teaching are in my soul.

My husband is a playwright but "works" at a big financial firm to support the theater habit. I know he would leave his job in a heartbeat, if he could get the same money, and I'd be happy with that or less. But he, too, is studying to become a math teacher, because his job lacks soul. He and I will continue to do theater, too, though.

Jun. 21 2008 11:02 AM
SS from New York, NY

Yes I would. I am just about to start my career as an attorney, but I have always secretly wanted to be a novelist. There is something romantic about looking through the world in eyes of your fictional characters. I'm happy to hear that many people did leave their jobs to follow their dreams. Kudos to you!

Jun. 21 2008 10:57 AM
Dan from Tennessee

Your question is tailor made for those of us with a personality structure rooted in projections of the "... if only..." variety. I would know, I count myself among them.

Would I give it a shot? Absolutely. Then, as I moved forward through the inevitable ups and downs, I would, no doubt see a re-emergence of fantasy about the next thing. That's when the change of profession would become truly interesting; and the inner learning curve get steep.

Jun. 19 2008 03:31 PM
Natasha from Jakarta, Indonesia

I would, if I had the skills, and I probably will, in the future.

There is one thing, though, that could prevent me from getting a job as an artist (I don't have a job yet, I'm a student): that I'm also interested in many, many other things in life, and I'm as equally interested to them as I am to art. Well, and maybe also the fact that I have absolutely no artistic talent whatsoever. Of course, I can always incorporate the other things I'm interested in into the art, but I just can't get the talent.

Sticking to the question, if I could earn the same amount of money while making art, then I'd definitely do it! This is assuming that I also have the talent, of course. I do art (that is, if you can call what I make as "art") for enjoyment, for the thrill, for fun--as a hobby, basically. Even though I'm not even slightly good at art, I enjoy it a lot, and I'd love to get paid for it!

Jun. 19 2008 12:49 PM
Sean from Omaha

I would do it in an instant. A few years ago, I was faced with a job as a reporter that paid about $27,000 in one of the most expensive areas to live in the US. I opted for a job as a technical writer in Omaha that paid about ten grand more and in an area with a far cheaper cost of living. The goal for me would be a journalist or a novelist (non-fiction, journalism-related).

That said - I think these 'real world' jobs give many artists the hunger they need to create some of their best works. Vonnegut was a technical writer, Kafka worked in insurance. When you are surrounded by that type of work/employees - you do get a great section of population to draw inspiration from whereas if you are in a situation where you are surrounded only by other artists/writers/musicians etc. - I think you tend to get a bit insulated.

Jun. 19 2008 11:17 AM
Steve Broadway from Oklahoma

I had 22 year career in high tech business to business sales and marketing (worked for IBM among others...) and was serving as the VP of Marketing at a $100M+ high tech company with a significant income until the end of 05.

In January of 06, I elected to take a position as the creative arts director at a local church. Money is less than half of what I was making, but it is a living wage.

I get to work with wonderful, talented people on music "performance", song arrangements, lighting, sound, video (shooting footage and editing), writing/recording music for video, simple set design and communication strategies.

I've never been happier. I miss the disposable income at times, but I now realize that life is far to short to spend it on anything less than your life's passion.

You don't have to make the same money to make the choice, you just have to make enough to live decently.

Jun. 18 2008 04:04 PM
mim from Richmond, Virginia

I was lucky enough to have a spouse with a salary so I could be an adjunct instructor of art at a univ. and have time to make art. When I had to get a full time 24/7 job, I couldn't make art, thought I made money. I was so happy when I was able to go back to teaching and to making my own art. Would i love to have had a full time art making career making a livable wage? You bet!

Jun. 18 2008 03:07 PM
Sam Sneau from Dallas, Texas

I seem to be on an unending quest of shedding my skin to recreate myself. I first tried to do it as a Freshman in college when I changed majors from Physics to Studio Art. I gave into the pressures that were and promptly switched back. I found a middle road a few years later in computer animation which lead to a web design career. After 6 years I started my own business creating web sites. I currently hope to phase out of this business in a few years to trade stocks and support a slower lifestyle where I can get back to my artwork - among other things. But if I could flip a switch and make the same amount of money, I'd definitely dive into art or writing. Or can I add athletics? If I were at least 6'4" I would have pursued volleyball as a career, but 5'11" isn't tall enough for that ride :)

Jun. 18 2008 01:32 PM
Peggy Anderson from Hohenwald, TN

I have always had fun at my jobs. But, if I knew that I could make as much money as an artist, I would do it right this minute, no questions asked. I used to work as an ecological researcher slogging through swamps and other wetlands. I might not have given that up. Now, I would love to make a living painting, writing or singing.

Jun. 18 2008 09:52 AM
JoEllen from St. Peace, Florida`

Everyone thinks I have a dream job, but I am so ready to have another one, one as a mapmaker! cartologist! I hope that I don't need artistic talent for that, though I would love to make the most beautiful maps in the world.

Jun. 17 2008 08:23 PM
Gil Stevens from Wayne, PA

To Melissa in Oklahoma, and Jacqui Sergio right down the road from me here in PA, and everyone else who wants to, but doesn't think they can, I'm here to tell you it's possible. After many false starts and many years thinking I couldn't do it because "writers don't make money" I was finally shown the way out of my box. I'm starting a business writing speeches and presentations, which might sound boring, if you have a "great American novel" in mind. But I'm loving it, it's leading me into other things like web content, and articles. I'm making money writing - and I'll never go back.

Jun. 17 2008 05:06 PM
Lindsey Emerson from Washington, DC

It's been drilled into my head since I was a child to 'follow my dreams'. However, as a college student, I quickly learned the truth and was dissuaded by various parties, who were quick to ground me with 'factual evidence' of actors' instability and lack of financial security. So I did what any other indecisive college student would do; I majored in business.

Though I now have earned the title of 'Business Professional', the dreams of a hopeful child still remain within and haunt my everyday with the inevitable 'what if's'. However, if I were promised the security and financial stability that I have earned presently . . . there would be absolutely nothing holding me back.

But then where is the risk and excitement of chasing a dream? At the end of the day, I'd like to feel as if I earned it from the unstable ground up.

Jun. 16 2008 06:13 PM
Kyle White from Saint Louis area

I recently got my BA with an English major and creative writing minor to pursue writing, so there's no switching involved, but I do intend to find some work to support myself as I write (a la many of the greats). Even Einstein had a day job.

Jun. 16 2008 04:23 PM
Clark Starr from Maplewood, NJ

I'd do it in a heartbeat (has someone already used that phrase? See! Dammit, I'm a no talent hack).

The key is, sadly, "earn as least as much money as you do now." With that qualifier, it's an easy question. I'd switch to being a k-12 teacher with that qualifier.

I know that I'm a guilty member of our consumerist society--I'm working on that--but I was a musician for 8 years coming out of college. I'd say that for only about 12 months of that period was I supported by just being an artist. The rest of the time was spent in soul-squelching hourly jobs. Had I been more talented would that have been the case? I don't know, honestly. Success in the rock & roll world is not exactly correlated to talent.

Jun. 16 2008 01:30 PM
George from Houston TX

Sure I'll do anything to become a full-time painter.

I currently am a part-time painter (mostly late at nights) but still have to keep a full-time job as Graphic Designer and a couple of extra work as security guard to subsidy my painting career (or should I say hobby?). But would quit everything else if I could earn enough out of it.

Jun. 16 2008 01:28 PM
Larry Clark from Vienna, VA

The question is framed: If I had the skills OR talent...

I only need pick one? Heck...I'll take a pay CUT.

I've been pretty serious about photography since the mid-1960s. I took a degree in photojournalism, but career took a diverging path.

A few years ago a college classmate's book "How I Learned Not To Be A Photojournalist" woke me up, and several art and art-related courses at a local university got me back into a frame of mind I hadn't experienced in years. One problem is making that mental switch from career to that place where you need to be as you contemplate art -- your art and others'. Career gives me the resources, but maybe not the time.

Skills? In my discipline I have them, or am confident I can acquire them.

Talent? I'd like to think so, but who knows.

Curiosity? There are some very interesting opportunities to blend media, and technology has presented us with a host of new tools and processes...

So where do I sign up?

Jun. 16 2008 12:46 PM
Kathleen Van Lieu from Nantucket, MA

Yes! I would be a painter.

Jun. 16 2008 09:34 AM
johanna greenberg from los angeles, ca

absolutely!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! what a great dream!!!!!!!!!!!
i was a fine arts major at college, but some time after graduating, ended up with some physical problems. this made me decide to make sure i would always have enough money to take care of myself, while still doing something i felt was worthwhile. my plan was to work just enough at a career to pay bills and do my creative work on my off days. well, i became a veterinarian, which i do love as i am helping both people and animals and challenging myself. however artistically it has been a lot more sparse than i expected. (although i have ended up storyboarding on the side for film and advertising as well as creating other commercial and fine art works.)
still, what i would love, and have always dreamed of, is to have my own private (2-D and 3-D) art studio space and actually be paid to produce my own vision. it would be wonderful to be able to make a difference in people's lives in this way instead. that would be incredible. then, if i wanted or needed to, i could help people, friends and family, and myself with our own animals-- effectively reversing the two career roles in my life.
good question,
thanks for all you do--

Jun. 16 2008 03:04 AM
MLC from Manhattan

Like a shot. I've been supporting myself since I was a teenager. Now I'm a copywriter at a large international ad agency. I've always written in 2 camps: 1 for money & 1 for me. I publish occasionally (short stories & essays) but it's not enough to make a living. If I could write what I wanted & earn what I'm making, it would make me very happy. So, to answer your question: Yes, yes, yes!

Jun. 16 2008 12:42 AM
charlie bird from sammamish wa

20 years ago at 39, I quit being an industrial mathematician to draw political cartoons. After 6 years as an emerging young artist(so said the Detroit dailies)the surburban co-op gallery lost its lease when the economy improved, and industry hired me even with a 6 year gap in my resume to forecast. I lasted three years before quitting. 3 months later I was in Seatle building a forecasting systemforn an internet retailer.I wound up making a lot of $.
Art, political satire, or humor for current salary? Yes for even half that. The years I spent making art, drawing cartoons and writing for a local biweekly were the happiest days of my life ( except for the year I lost my nerve and attended michgan law)
Why don't I quit and go back to making art. I dunno, precautionary demand for money, lack of health insurance, and the feeling that I'm just not good enough at art . I'm not sure whether this is a success story or a sad story.( but those are not mutually exclusive)
At the very least I took my retirement when I was young enough to enjoy it. Maybe it's like the prisoner who spends so much time in jail he can't function on the outside. If it's any consolation I'm in the metaphorical equivalent of a minimum security country club prison as I work for one of those companies that is considered one of the best places to work in America. Still one wonders.. what might have been

Jun. 15 2008 11:46 PM
peter mandelson

I am a 54 year old cardiologist. I love my work and my patients. I have played music most of my life, and still play regularly with other people, occaisionally out in clubs, and actively record in a home studio.
Would I give up cardiology to devote myself to music full-time? In a heartbeat.

Jun. 15 2008 11:11 PM
K. Sarah Kaufmann from ann arbor Michigan

I am an artist. 3 years ago I had to take a full-time job in order to live. It is a wonderful job. Good people, a cat at work, flowers, fun, outdoors all the time.
But it is my greatest goal to be self supported by making art.
My studio was self-sustaining (barely) from 2000 to 2005. As a weaver/designer of high-end wall hangings, I showed and sold my work at american craft exhibition/shows, the smithsonian craft fair (2003) and other high-end shows. I have always fantasized about having a patron. Or simply being given food & bed while I weave.

Jun. 15 2008 10:45 PM
nzo nelson from sharon, vermont

Ive done just that a number of times over the years, dropping out of New York, and dream positions, until it was clear that one never reaches their optimum comfort level, as the criteria changes over time and the playing field changes also. For anyone to which this comes to mind, though, it is almost mandatory that you do it so that you dont become a prisoner of your own indecision and wistful dispair. I have also done that, and the former far surpasses the latter.

Jun. 15 2008 05:07 PM
Bourne from NJ

In a heartbeat - I would stop by business related job and become a photographer that travels around the world to inform people about different cultures and places.

I love the type of work that I do but my passion in photography. I remember the day I started my MBA program - my classes were right across from the MFA program building. I always thought I was on the wrong side of the campus.

There is a way for me to marry the business to the creative - I just haven't tapped into it. But I will keep trying.

In the meantime - I am going to set up time for a portfolio review.

If not now...then when? Life is about living and trying.

Jun. 15 2008 11:05 AM
Gino J Bortoluzzi from virginia beach, va

I have always been somewhat of a frustrated musician, the road not taken sort of thing I suppose. I would leave my present corporate retail post in a heart beat if I could become a symphony conductor. Who wouldn't thrill at the opportunity to guide a group of musicians , singers or other performers , creating an exhilarating life enriching moment for both you and your audience ? to be at the focal point of a Verdi aria, a Chopin concerto or a Beethoven overature .... the very thought makes my skin turn to goose bumps!

J B Priestly said it best:
Oh! to be a conductor, to weld a hundred men into one singing giant, to build up the most gorgeous arabesques of sound, to wave a hand and make the clamoring strings sink to a mutter, to wave again, and hear the brass crashing out in triumph, to throw up a finger, then another and another, and to know that with every one the orchestra would bound forward into a still more ecstatic surge and sweep, to fling oneself forward, and for a moment or so keep everything still, frozen, in the hollow of one's hand, and then to set them all singing and soaring in one final sweep, with the cymbals clashing at every flicker of one's eyelid, to sound the grand Amen.

Thank you for the opportunity to bear my soul ;-)

Jun. 15 2008 09:41 AM
Phyllis Azar from Brooklyn, New York

My day job is the advertising and promotions director for a well-known book publisher. A nice place to work but I've always done something creative on the side. I've published several short fiction stories, started writing a novel, but recently found that I really enjoy writing lyrics. My husband plays guitar and is composing music for my songs. I don't sing very well, I don't play an instrument, but I've got something to say lyrically. I would become a full-time songwriter in a heartbeat if I could make the same money (well, maybe just a little more!) and get the same health benefits. I believe health benefits is a huge barrier to many who might pursue an artistic life. Thanks for listening. =p.

Jun. 14 2008 06:50 PM
Sara from Vermont

No way. I have to say that as I've become a regular listener of the Studio 360 podcast it often seems as if we're all agreed that the artist's life is the ideal, and I don't agree.

I'm a professor of economics. I enjoy teaching and sharing ideas with my students. In the classroom I am a performer conveying ideas with a script written by me and examples devised by me. When students ask questions, I have to improvise a response that will enlighten them and diffuse their confusion.

I enjoy using my expertise to understand and explain the world around me. I have the freedom to study questions of my choice and pursue my curiosity in any direction. I have wonderful colleagues on campus and around the country. Since earning tenure, I have excellent job security. My job gives me some prestige and respect.

I think people should want to trade places with me!

Jun. 14 2008 05:11 PM
stu wittwer from taos, NM

I followed the expected path of a kid in Wisconsin by following High School with college followed by marriage and kids. all is well and all are happy BUT back then I wish someone had indicated that it would have been OK to go to Hollywood and build the wonderful movie/TV sets. there is real hands on art takling place when a location is created. I have gotten out of ''the box'' now (at 65) and can really appreciate the artistic talent involved in the behind the sceans art of Hollywood.

Jun. 14 2008 03:43 PM
David Edwrds from Fort Worth, TX

I work as systems analyst and have started taking voice again recently. I'm making a lot of progress vocally and musically, and it's been a blast. I'm not close to being a professional, but even if I were, I wouldn't want to give up my day job. The two activities (systems analysis and singing) work different parts of my brain, and I don't want to give up either of them.

Jun. 14 2008 03:24 PM
Katie from Washington, DC

I'd love to do it and have been wondering how much cash I need to have saved up before I would dare to make the move. I'm so grateful for the steady salary, benefits, retirement funds, etc., but some weeks by the end of it I feel like it is taking a toll on my soul. Mary, I could use some tips from you!

Jun. 14 2008 02:58 PM
Mary from Washington, DC


I make my living as a self-employed writer, and I'm NEVER GOING BACK! No more cubicles, no more mission statements, no more "strategy sessions," no more pantyhose, no more meeting after meeting after meeting that accomplishes nothing, no more office politics!!

I make more money than I ever did in corporate America, I am doing something that actually helps people, and I can work in my pajamas. I LOVE IT and I'm NEVER going back.

Jun. 14 2008 02:02 PM
Michael from NYC

Actually, I'm taking the opposite tack. After 27 years as a professional photographer with the rare, coveted staff position in a large industrial firm, I'm moving into IT systems design, still within that company.

My new boss is of the opinion that the best software is developed by creative people with a habit of thinking out of the box - and can do so if the face of what can be a tough corporate audience.

My own motivation for the change was to create things that more directly help people in their day to day lives - too often the photograph put together so carefully gets lost in the visual clutter of most folks' daily experiences.

I like to think I'm leaving at the top of my game - the B&W portrait work here is some of my most recent: http://www.coned.com/diversity/DiversityAnnualReport.pdf

Jun. 14 2008 01:01 PM
Scott M.

Not for those careers. But if I could make the same money, I'd be a garbage man.

It's the perfect job (except for the smell). You're up early, don't have to shower. Get your exercise for the day chasing the truck, so no going to the gym or treadmill later in your spare time. You're off early so the rest of the day is yours to spend with the family. If you make a mistake, it's still garbage. How do you mess up garbage? Not like a doctor where you kill people. Oh, and no weirdo hours like cops, doctors, etc.

Garbage man is my ideal job although I'm currently working as a medical physicist.

Jun. 14 2008 12:02 PM
Kevin Ross from Brooklyn, New York

I had been a school teacher for 9 years when I took the leap. I was 42 and kept wondering what my life would have been like if I had ever tried to live as an artist in New York. After a lot of consideration I decided to try. I locked up my little house and moved from Maine to New York City to work as a film maker.

The last 22 months have been quite the learning experience alternately exhilarating, harsh, eyeopening, and mostly mundane. The jury is still out on how this will work out but I seem to be able one way or another to keep getting by and I have learned more in the last 2 years than I had in a long time.

I know if I hadn't done it I would have spent my whole life wondering what if and these days I'm mostly philosophical about having made the move. I am not yet making as much as I did when I was teaching (although my earning potential is theoretically higher) but it's not really about the money. For me it's about finding out what I am capable of.

Time will tell how it all turns out and I am very glad I did it.

Jun. 14 2008 11:56 AM
Tom Law from manhattan, nyc

I am a designer/general contractor in Manhattan for the past 30 years and been able to this with the help of my friend and partner, my loving wife. I am also a stage 4 cancer survivor of 5 years and am doing so well that my doctor told me something I never liked hearing from my mother but loved hearing it from him,"You're perfect". 68, feeling great I am now transforming myself back to what I wanted to do as a young man after having done the due diligence it took to raise 5 young people. I am writing poetry and songs again. Wish me luck. Who knows if I'll make money. I just want to make sense. Great show, I listen frequently, Tom

Jun. 14 2008 11:16 AM
Starr from New York, NY

Do it. Get in the pool and swim. If you are an artist you have to do it for sanity.
I'm happily self employed for over 30 years, doing some form of art, sometimes starving sometime not.

Jun. 14 2008 11:08 AM
Jeff Raheb from Brooklyn, NY

Yes, in a second. I left a career as a musician/composer to work full time in IT because I couldn't make enough to survive in New York as an artist. My wife did the same as a painter and now works full time as well. I can now do only a small fraction of what I once did as a full time artist. Most of my artist friends have been going the same route.

Jun. 14 2008 11:06 AM
jacqui sergio from Jenkintown, PA.

Woulda, shoulda. I don't believe in looking back too much anymore because it can make you unhappy. I made choices and that's that. Yet.............you and Studio 360 keep prodding me about the creative process. I was a bit of a ham from high school on, to the extent that I left Barnard at the instigation of a wonderful theater professor to take classes at the American Theater Wing where I found that I was more conservative than I knew. I love voices, accents, guessing what country someone is from, listening to the radio, actors with great eloquence. I did a bit of traveling and eventually went into teaching languages which allowed me to ham it up, too. Having said that, others in académe have continued to comment on the beauty of my voice and persuasive delivery, just enough to tantalize me into considering doing voiceovers or something. Here I go again. Or do I?

Jun. 14 2008 08:06 AM
Marty from Seattle

I would do it in a heartbeat. I am trying to do that very thing right now. Thanks to my wonderful wife, I am only working part-time and pursuing my art in my spare time. I would love to get to a place where I make enough money from the art so I can quit the day job. Meanwhile, I will continue to make art whether the money comes in or not. It's not always about the money...although it does help.
If you are interested in seeing my art, go to http://www.martworks.blogspot.com.

Jun. 13 2008 05:21 PM
Melissa from Oklahoma

I would do it in an instant. No second thoughts or looking back would be needed. I can't help but feel there is a better career out there for me. One filled with my imagination and creativity. One where I wake up and have a job that I can't wait to do instead of one that I don't dread. It would be nice to have a talent that I could make a living off of. I would make sun catchers and blow glass if I could. And be a guitarist. But unfortunately I will only be living those dreams from my bed at night.

Jun. 13 2008 12:09 PM
Christine Stump from Albuquerque NM

I am doing it right now! I'm fortunate to have a rewarding career as a Paramedic, as well as the opportunity to grow as a yoga teacher. While I don't have the guaruntee in the question above (and I wouldn't stop street medicine even if I did...), I've gone half time as a Medic and am growing my practice. I think it's important that whatever we do with our lives, we relate to as art, as passion and that we notice when we have an opportunity for creative, supported, intelligent risk.

Jun. 13 2008 12:09 PM
sunday from ny

well i actually make my living as an artist... i do tattoos! i work with several other talented artists at a custom shop which means we draw each design as its own unique piece of art... its wonderful & i am so thankful to be able to do something so fulfilling each day to earn my bread however after 10+ years i must admit that if i could still pay my bills & yet be able to take the time to just make art... art that i love! art that comes from my heart & soul & mind, inspired by my own ideas i would love to... you see tho i am making art for a living - it is really from someone elses heart & mind... it is generally their idea - which is great too! i love the collaboration & it is often fun to set out to design something that would have never occurred to me! but it leaves me little time to sow the seeds of my own ideas... doing only my own art at this point would be such a treat for a while but i suspect i would eventually miss the direct collaboration with another person so i would just love to be able to do both... less tattooing to free up more time for other arts!

Jun. 13 2008 02:41 AM
Eric Cooper from Shiga, Japan

I have a dream job, doing research and teaching university at a very comfortable level. Would I give it up just to be an actor or a musician? Yes, in a heartbeat. Before studying computer science, I went to art school but I love singing and acting even more than art. I have my guitar hidden here in my office .

This year, I finally recorded a song. It was for KDVS, This Week in Science. The song was a humorous parody. They played it, even put it on their promotion CD. I was feeling pretty good about that so I played it for my skeptical 10-year-old son. "It's pakuri" he declared, flatly -- pakuri being Japanese for 'rip-off'. "It's... actually a _parody_. You know Weird Al... no you wouldn't." There's nothing like a child's honesty to jerk one back to reality... and start writing originals.

Jun. 12 2008 09:46 PM

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