On Balancing Work + Art: Inspired by Allison Ranieri

Writing while you have a full-time or part time job that has nothing to do with it?

Well, I know about that! And so does the talented Allison Ranieri.

Recently I got PhD funding but because I’m studying in England without being English – how do I dare! – it doesn´t come with a monthly payment to help me eat and sleep in a sheltered place and things like that.

I must confess I was very annoyed by this – even when many would tell me I’m lucky enough because if I was not from the EU I could have never applied for this money in the first place!

I don´t understand these rules – I’m leaving my mother togue to write in English, are they not impressed by my sacrifice?

But then I wathed Allison Raineri’s YouTube series ‘A Week in the Life of an Illustrator (Working 9-5 Day Job) Challenge. And that was very inspiring and made me think about all the positive aspects that come from (trying to) balance a daily job and your true passion.

So let’s get started!

1. It brings experiences.


Even Emily Dickinson – who was said not to leave her house in years – surely did many other things apart from writing such as taking care of the home, her siblings’ children, her elder parents, the garden and so on… Unless you’re St Kevin (and you decide to hide yourself in a little cave in Glendalough to meditate/write for years and years) you need to do other things in order to keep getting ideas for writing. In fact, I see the writing/artistic process as something that includes at least three parts:

  1. Compost. You need to go out there and get both shitty and wonderful experiences. Meeting new people, travelling, experiencing new things… but also suffering disgraces and all sort of scary events (like my Cumbrian spiders) open your mind to new worlds of ideas.
  2. The craft. Getting your hands directly into your creation.
  3. The response. Unless you’re St Kevin, your art will get out there and you’ll recieve a response. This will shape new projects and can be scary, drainning but also immensly inspiring.


2. Time becomes meaningful.


If you have all day to write chances are that laziness and procratination are going to get in your way. The daily grind is something feared by many (I include myself). At the end of the day, combining writing with other activities you must do means that whenever you have that single hour to write you’re going to take the most of it (instead of checking out Facebook). I think that´s why people like Kathleen Jones – an amazing poet – managed to launch a great writing career even when she had to take care of four children and provide for them!

3. It Makes you more productive.


You take every chance yo go out to research, to interview/ask someone who you admire, to try new productivity techniques… Whenever you’ve all time in front of you to spend is very easy to accomodate to the routine and think you’d do that great thing tomorrow. When it’s not the case, you’ll probably try to grasp the first opportunity you get – because it might be the last one!

4. We’re all humans.


Last but not least: perfection doesn’t exist. Allison always starts her day in these videos doing a lot of to-do lists because she wants to get the most of her day. However, most of the times she struggles completing them. I could feel so related to it. It’s good to make plans to stay focused, but oh, life happens. And sometimes things just get crazy.

Being organised is fundamental to balance work and art, but what is even more important is to acknowledge from the very beginning that we’re all humans. We’re going to miss points in our to-do lists, we’re going to lack inspiration in the most important moments, we’re going to break down at some point in the way… And then, when that happens, it’s important to take a breath, rise and keep walking. Having the motivation clear helps us to advance the path, even if it’s tiny step after tiny step. But never stopping or leaving.

5. Get it all done and then enjoy!


Working, doing art, getting inspired… sometimes you might feel restless (I do, at least). So I also like to stop and do nothing for a while, because otherwise I know I’d just burn myself out (it has happened before). For instance, at least once or twice a week I like to take my evenings free and lazy around reading, playing games, meeting friends, watching movies… Something that I don’t need to take very seriously – because art is, at the end of the day, my most serious occupation, and that can feel a bit like a huge rucksack at my back.

I think that when we’re starting our artistic path is very easy to feel discouraged. We could see around us people already making a living of it and feel like it’s a question of pure luck (and we’re not the chosen ones) or that we’re not talented enough (as these people are). But the truth is, the ones who make it are the ones who are (above all) persistant. Everyone has stories of endurance and dark moments behind – a famous example is J K Rolwing, or you can also listen to this inspiring interview from the Being Boss podcast with the writer Tommy Walker – who at some point thought about living with his family in a tent in the woods.

What I love about Allison Raineri’s series (and all her videos in general) is how she manages to offer honest advice for people like her, who might not make a living just in illustration but are willing to try – and succeed! It’s a pleasure to see how talented and passionated she’s, and definitely I can translate her feelings and aspirations into my writing journey.

Thanks Allison, and thanks to you all for reading this post.

Anyone else out there balancing work and art? I’d love to hear your experiences. Let’s share tips!




  1. Cumbrian spiders? What’s with that?

    I think you’re absolutely right with the productivity point, and the ideas and stimulation from a job that’s unconnected to your art. It’s frustrating when all you want to do is write, but I think I was a more efficient writer when I worked fulltime . . .


  2. Cumbrian spiders are the most terrifying creatures from the whole world Anne, and you should know about that!

    Yeah, it’s interesting to notice that the days I have all the time to write I seem to be very tired and lose my time more than the days I have to alternate writing with day-time job… But of course, it could also be partly because working full-time is very tiring!

    I wish FB and things like that didn´t exixt… :/


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