Maybe you've heard the term "slashie" a creative person whose day job isn't her real job. Like a writer/barista, or a painter/social media manager. A "slashie" actually has three jobs: pay the bills, keep the juices flowing with play and pursue a professional experiment that furthers a creative path regardless of financial gain -- how she hopes to someday earn a living.
A "slashie" is me. And maybe you. And most of the smart, creative people in my life. Some are learning to anticipate social trends that resonate with their callings, institutionalizing a niche into an actual job. Others are basing their life paths on old vocational norms (i.e. "a writer"), attempting to keep the writing from getting choked out while working a job for for money, and maybe a night job that furthers the career element of being a writer, like leading workshops or editing a literary magazine. Still others treat the career as a creative act itself, moving from small job to small job -- one friend runs a company that sells microfiber wipes to DJs to clean their vinyl, but also writes articles for local newspapers and drives Google Map cars. In a fragmented economy, some "slashies" are learning to piece together meta-vocations.
All are forging new paths in a big sea of opportunity. And that's the cool thing: the sea is bigger than ever.
Recently, one of my favorite podcasters, Sarah May Bee of Help Me Be Me, discussed how to grow as a working creative. Sarah says:
Slashies are a growing percentage of the workforce because many careers nowadays don't have 'work experience.' A creator can build a new app/community/business overnight and because of that, new job definitions are being invented every day. Thanks to equal opportunity of the internet, it's like a claim-jumper era for creatives with a desire to build something new.
But here's the maybe less cool thing: Without a set path, no map other than persistence and experimentation, it can take a little longer to get where we want to go. And also, where is that exactly?
I write this as a 28-year-old hustler with years of experience in various jobs -- some traditional (like a publicist at a publishing house) and some that hadn't existed (like the in-house "marketing" position I created at the restaurant where I had been hostessing -- badly -- at night). During the three years I lived in New York after college, my job titles included, often simultaneously: book publicist, copyeditor, hostess, cocktail waitress, social media manager, marketing coordinator, food blogger and other gigs without titles that involved online writing and blogosphere networking. I also attended summer writer's conferences and winter writing workshops, won a few contests, joined a writers collective, got my first creative work published, and applied to grad school. These days I'm writing a book, freelance editing, teaching at the university where I'm finishing up my MFA, and bartending. And here I am. Still wondering. Where to next?
You might have also heard of "yuccies," a new generational archetype the media loves to hate. A "yuccie" apparently wants to be both rich and creative. (It's not as if the culture worships money and consumerism, so where are these crazy desires coming from?!) One writer on Mashable explains:
[Yuccies are] social consultants coordinating #sponsored Instagram campaigns for lifestyle brands; they're brogrammers hawking Uber for weed and Tinder for dogs; they're boutique entrepreneurs shilling sustainably harvested bamboo sunglasses.
"Yuccies" seem to want all the freedom of an artist's life without any of the financial hardship, something this writer forgets actually used to be at least possible. A recent piece on Refinery 29, reminds us that once upon a time:
Writers, painters, and musicians could easily support themselves with part-time work and still have ample room in their schedule to pursue their calling. Now, those who aren't independently wealthy end up working the same 47-hour-a-week day job as the rest of America.
The author also makes the sort of sad point that in order to "buy the free time to make art, [yuccies] spend precious nights and weekends on half-baked 'innovations'... convincing themselves that this too qualifies as a creative outlet."
And it's true, the workforce is still as stingy as when current late-twenty-somethings were introduced to it. According to the Washington Post, most companies who "shed employees in the Great Recession" are still using one person for the job of two or more, forcing workers into longer, more strenuous hours. While companies claim that millennials are their most targeted hires, 1 in 6 millennials report "suffering negative consequences for having a flexible schedule." Work-life balance is remarkably hard to come by.
Point is, "slashies" I know aren't trying to "get rich." But what's wrong with wanting to enjoy life and also not starve? The anti-"yuccie" stance sounds like its coming from a world where most Americans weren't in debt, when women stayed at home with 2.5 kids and dads went to work for the same company in the same town for thirty years. Ozzie and Harriet, we hardly knew yee.
So perhaps it's true that the timing has never been worse nor better to forge a paying career out of artistic passion. Sure, I can pen a press release in less than five minutes; I can come up with a relevant angle and pitch an interview to NPR ; I can manage a Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram account; I can copyedit in a hurry and turn out punchy blog posts and promotional copy and revise a manuscript and grade 50 crappy freshman comp essays in one night. But I'm also dark and rainy inside and I'm best at writing weird, fragmented lyric essays about sex and mistakes. I went to school. I got a couple degrees. I got skillz. And I swear, I'm not trying to create the next Tinder for Kittens (could this be something...?) so I can buy $80 sweatpants.
I think "slashies" know what I'm talking about. But who are they exactly -- not as archetypes, but really? And how are they taking back the creative class?
Are YOU a SLASHIE pursuing a creative career? Probably yes, you are. Help inspire the rest of us by sending me an email with a few details about your various slash identities, your struggles, successes, and your own roadmap to job land.