How to Survive the Cubicle When You’d Rather Be in the Studio Making Stuff

Miniature Easel
This miniature easel sits in front of my monitor at the office. It makes me happy.

Do you spend most of your week in a cubicle when you’d rather be in the studio making stuff?

If the answer is yes, you’re not alone.

For various reasons, many of us choose to work at a job that doesn’t involve using our right side of the brain all that much and has us spending many hours in less than inspiring gray-walled cubicles.

Even if we like our day job it can feel like a double life sometimes this office vs. studio scenario, left vs. right, gray vs. color. Thankfully, there are ways to lessen the gap.

Below are a few things I’ve tried to help make my days in the cube a little less drab and a little more pleasant. They may not always cure the “I-don’t-wanna-be-here’s”, but they certainly do help make them better. If you’re in a similar situation, you may find some of them useful too.

Build a creative practice around your work hours.

If you make art you’re an artist, no matter where or how you spend your day. The same goes for writing, taking photos, sewing, designing… Commit to your craft by practicing it each day you go into work even if it’s only for 15 minutes. Do it in the morning, at lunch time or after the kids have gone to bed. Claiming and asserting your creative identity can do wonders for the left-brain doldrums.

NOTE: This has by far been the biggest game changer for me. I’ve completed more paintings since I started my work day studio practice than I did while I was on a one-year sabbatical. Because of this, I feel more like an artist today than I did when I took time off to “make a go at it.”

Find a creative outlet that you can practice during breaks and lunch hour.

Can you do something with your smartphone or your tablet? A sketchbook and a pen? Knitting needles? It may not be in your usual medium, but it will allow you to flex your creative muscles.

Read books related to your craft, creativity or inspiring creatives during breaks and lunch hour.

Make creativity and inspiration a regular part of your day. If your office job involves number crunching, your left brain will enjoy the break.

Include reminders of your creative identity in your workspace.

Hang up magnets, quotes or postcards related to your craft. If adorning your workspace isn’t practical, carry something in your purse or wallet as a touchstone.

Talk to your colleagues about your art.

Some of them may be creative kindreds themselves, and you never know, your cubicle mate may become one of your biggest customers!

Remember why you’re at your current job.

If the primary motivation for staying at your current job is money, remember what that money is paying for. It might be your dream home, your child’s education, or travel (I have a large poster of the Eiffel Tower on my cubicle wall). Maybe it’s helping you build up your art supply stash or pay for creative workshops.

Acknowledge and appreciate what your job allows you to do and how it supports your current lifestyle.

Finally, remember that your paid work is only ONE part of your life.

You are not your job. There are many more facets to life than how you create revenue. Sometimes putting less than ideal situations in perspective helps make them more palatable. I write this as much for myself as I do for you.

I would love to hear from you.

If you’re sitting in a cubicle or working at a job that doesn’t feed your soul when you’d rather be doing something else, how do you cope? What do you do to make it work?

What could you do?

4 thoughts on “How to Survive the Cubicle When You’d Rather Be in the Studio Making Stuff

  1. Great post! I eat lunch at my desk most days so that I can use the time to scan through Pinterest for inspiration, read through blog posts (like this one), look at previews of new art and craft books on Amazon, etc., etc. It’s amazing what just a little time on the Internet can do for your creative juices!

    1. Thank you Leslie! Ah Pinterest… I haven’t delved deeply into that source of inspiration yet, but I know it has a lot to offer. Maybe it’s time. :)

  2. Thx to my work buddy, Fiona, for forwarding your article to me. To share the creative side of my day job I take photos of treatment activities and write in my blog for fellow OTs around the world. Not too many comments coming my way from the posts but I can tell by the stix that folks are reading it. I’m not the art-gifted type but I’d rather spend my days spoiling my cat and learning Latin names for plants at Lewis Ginter, so I brush my cat several times a week until he glows and take butterfly/dragonfly/tree bark classes at Lewis Ginter in the summers off from work. Keep on writin’!

    1. Thanks for your comment Karen! Taking photos to write about them is a great way to engage with your current work. Lewis Ginter looks beautiful, enjoy your summer classes! :)

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