How I Manage to Do Lettering While Having a 9 to 5

How I Manage to Do Lettering While Having a 9 to 5

We all commit to things, no matter how much we think we hate commitment. You commit to going to work every morning You commit to paying your rent. You commit to cleaning your house on a regular basis. We don't necessarily like doing those things, but we do them anyway.

Now don't be fooled, you're not doing those things because you have to. That's a shortcut your brain takes. You're doing them because you value the upside (or you're trying to avoid the downside, which is the same thing):

  • You value getting a salary on a consistent schedule.
  • You value having a place to stay.
  • You value living in a healthy environment.

This, of course, makes it easier to commit. You internalized the upside so much that you're honoring your commitments without thinking about it.

The problem with something like lettering is that it's a lot tougher to commit. You may value the upside (becoming a great lettering artist, making a living out of your passion, etc.) but it's not as crucial to your survival as buying food or paying your rent.

And as if it wasn't hard enough, you have a day job. I know what it's like. My day job takes up a tier of my day + almost four hours a day of commute. That's half a day dedicated to something else than my passion, using the best hours of the day, and a lot of my energy. When I get back home, I'm beat. I feel like I'm done. I want to sit on my couch, watch Netflix, eat dinner and go to sleep early. I have no juice left.

I know you can relate.

Now let me be clear: there's nothing wrong about feeling this way. Everybody who has a full time job does, and trust me, the vast majority decides to use their free time to unwind. And among the rest, the vast majority gives up their side hustle after a little while. It doesn't make them weak, it makes them human.

So what do the others, the minority, have that others don't? How do they manage to do stuff when the majority can't? Well there's no secret, they are hungry. They want it badly. They want it more. They feel worse about their dream not happening at all, than about what it will take to get there. They value the upside at least as much as they value their basic human needs. Or they know too much about the downside to let it happen to them.

If you're here, you probably feel like you want it a lot. Lettering means a lot to you and you have a goal in mind. I hear you. I'm not at all saying you don't really want it. What I'm saying is that words don't mean shit, and the only accurate measurement of how much you want it is your actions.

I want to become a lettering legend. I want to be a known expert. I dream about being the ultimate reference when it comes to learning lettering. And the reason why you probably believe me is because you're seeing my actions. You see me post lettering. You see me publish content about lettering. You see me putting my money where my mouth is, and that makes you believe the words coming out of it.

The gap between your words and your actions is what you need to bridge. You need to make your day job irrelevant in your mind, and focus all your mental strength on your passion. You need to ignore how much your 9 to 5 weights on your day and go all in with what you have left.

My good friend Kyle Adams, who's a legendary icon designer and has a full time job as well, once posted the following tweet:

Now before you start protesting and saying things like "well, I also have kids!" or "well, I also have volunteer work!", please remember one thing: your reasons, or excuses, are your own. They're something you're telling to yourself. Make no mistake, nobody else cares. Nobody else wants you to prove them you don't have time. They're too busy caring about their own business. If you're reading Kyle's tweet and the first thing you want to say is "I, me, personally, don't have time", keep in mind that nobody is listening. And even if they were, and even if they cared, and even if you succeeded at convincing them that you don't have time, it wouldn't matter because the result would be the same: you're not doing shit.

I hate the expressions "finding the time" or "making the time". You can't find time, and you can't make time. You have 24 hours a day like everybody else. The only difference is what you make of it. The only thing you can do is taking time. But how do you take time in a busy day?

#1: Making sacrifices

That's inevitable. There are things you're doing right now that are taking time out of your day. Things that you don't have to do.

  • You don't have to play games in the subway on your way home.
  • You don't have to watch Netflix.
  • You don't have to go out with your friends.
  • You don't have to practice soccer.

Now make no mistake: I'm not saying those things aren't important. I purposefully mentioned things that may seem entirely unnecessary and things that may feel difficult to give up. My point is, I'm not judging what you're doing. And you shouldn't either. If you're thinking "well, playing Angry Birds is definitely less important than going out with your friends!", you're not looking at things with the right mindset. What's not vital but essential is different to everyone. You may care a lot about having a social life, and I don't. You may not care about traveling, and I do. My point is, there are things you're unconsciously committing to, and if you feel like you don't have time in your day, you're gonna have to drop one so you can replace it with your lettering commitment.

#2: Be smart

There probably are slots of free time in your day that you can turn to your advantage. For example, I have almost four hours of commute (by train). I have no choice, this time has to be spent, yet since I'm not driving, I have freedom to do whatever I want. This is perfect for lettering.

You can find plenty of slots of free time:

  • You can take less time to eat and use the rest of your lunch break to practice.
  • If you feel more efficient in the morning, you can go to bed earlier at night, wake up earlier in the morning, and use that time to practice.
  • If you feel better having long chunks of time to practice, you can make a deal with your manager so you work additional time on the four first days and they let you leave early the last one.

#3: Shift you mindset about time

Too many people see life in black and white. It's either good or bad. It's either all or nothing. You either a full-time freelancer or you're not a freelancer at all. You either have all day to do lettering, or you can't do it at all. I think this is 100% wrong and totally unrealistic. Not everyone can start a new venture and go all-in. Not everyone has the same situation and can unlock the same amount of time to commit to something new. Saying it's not worth doing if you can't do it full time is yet another excuse.

Yes, in an ideal world, you'd have the entire day to practice lettering. But why dwell on what you don't have? If you spend only one hour a day practicing lettering, you're already ahead of the curve. I'm dead serious: one full hour a day of deep, uninterrupted focus on lettering is huge if you do it consistently. It's more than what most people do, and it's a great first step. Nobody said you have to keep on practicing one hour a day for the rest of your life. In fact, starting by one hour a day might be a better way to practice at being consistent first, and then you can safely rely on that foundation to gradually increase your practice time.

I see my day job as my foundation. I do it seriously, and I'm doing great work when I'm there, but as soon as I check out it doesn't exist anymore. Before I sit at my desk in the morning, I don't have a day job. I don't allow it to eat up any second more than it should.

The key is mindset: you have to believe your day job is just a foundation and your passion is your actual life. It's far from enough, but it's mandatory if you ever want to go forward.

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