How to Create Art After a Long Day at the Office

Artwork Archive | February 12, 2016 (Updated April 12, 2021)

If you’re an artist with a full-time day job, you are no stranger to the bleary-headed tiredness that hits after a long day at your desk. You are drained. All you want to do is cuddle up with a cup of tea and the television, and not move. And that’s after you’ve dealt with dinner and finished any other necessary tasks. So, after all of that, how on earth are you supposed to salvage enough energy to create art?

Sure, you could quit your job and spend all day in the studio, but that simply isn’t feasible for many creatives. There are bills to pay and mouths to feed, and you can’t justify leaving a stable, full-time position to pursue an art career. But, that does not mean you’re destined for a soulless existence cut off from doing what you love. You don’t need eight hours a day to be an artist, you just need the energy to create in the time you have. Tweet this!

Bird by Bird

If you haven’t read Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird, we highly recommend it. While it’s geared for writers, her wisdom rings true for any creative.

She champions looking at your creative work as short assignments. If you say, “I’m just going to sit in the chair for ten minutes and paint this one small section”, it’s much easier to get started.

You’ll be surprised at how quickly the fatigue falls away and your creativity blossoms. You’ll find your flow and you won’t even realize that you’ve ended up making art for much longer than ten minutes. Just take it step by step, “bird by bird”.

Welcome Small Windows

That being said, don’t dismiss small windows of time for art sessions. If you really can only sit down for ten minutes, that’s okay.

Make those ten minutes count and celebrate that you’ve completed a part of your piece, no matter how small. Ten minutes a few times a day is much better than nothing at all.

It adds up faster than you think and will give you a sense of accomplishment.

Ignore Perfectionism

Another common problem when tackling creativity on a drained brain is perfectionism. You may be thinking, “I’m too tired to do anything worth keeping right now.”

The thing is, with a full-time job you’ll most likely always be tired, and you’ll never create if you stick to that mindset.

Lamott considers perfectionism “the oppressor” and claims “perfectionism will only drive you mad.” She champions messes and states they are where true creativity and artistry will be found.

So, pick up your paintbrush or clay or pencil and see where it takes you.

Words of wisdom by Penelope Trunk. Artwork: “Wild Wave” by the amazing Patti Claassen.

Flip the Script

According to Buffer, “The longer the day goes on, the more fatigue your self-control experiences, [and] the more important it is to make those early morning hours count.”

So, instead of staying up late to work on your art, wake up earlier and set aside time in the morning when your brain is fresh with new ideas.

You’ll then be giving your peak creative juices to your art business, rather than all to your office job.

Stick to Your Priorities

It can be easier said than done, but you have to decide what you can and cannot commit to. If your art business is a high priority, make sure you don’t spread yourself so thin that you can’t concentrate any time on it.

It’s alright to say “no” if it’s a promise you cannot or should not keep in your personal life, and one that interrupts your art time.

If you’ve set aside a certain amount of time to create art, whether it’s weekday mornings or weekend afternoons, stick to that schedule. That is precious art time and has to be treated as such.

Or as Rebecca Wise Girson of Artist With a Day Job likes to put it, “It’s Saturday: step away from the day job.”

An inspiring quote by Sara Benincasa. Artwork: “Shoals” by the fantastic Patricia J. Finley.

Pay Attention to Burnout

Following your passion for art while juggling other obligations can make you even more tired if you’re not careful. Remember to actively take time for yourself, even if it’s something small like taking a walk after dinner or listening to your favorite musician before starting on your art.

Jumping straight from art, to office, to art every day with no time in between will cause everything to suffer. You’ll be much more creative if you’ve taken the time to hit pause and refresh just a little bit.

Ready to Make the Leap from Side Hustle to Full-Time Art Career?

If you're ready to commit to art eight hours a day (or more), check out Cory Huff’s article How to Build an Art Business While Working a Day Job and be sure to listen to the Creative Insurgent podcast at the bottom with Cory Huff, Melissa Dinwiddie, and Matt LeBlanc. Matt LeBlanc was an advertising executive working 80 hours a week on both ads and art before he switched over to follow his true passion. Now he's a successful full-time artist. Matt has some fantastic and insightful tips about building an art business. This is one podcast you don't want to miss.

Are you an artist with a full-time day job? We’d love to know how you make time and find energy for your art. You never know who’s reading the comments and will benefit from your sage advice!

Share This Article
Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies. Cookie Policy