Why the Service Industry is the Both the Best and Worst Place for Aspiring Artists to Work
Living and working in the performing arts usually means I spend more time behind a bar, (or in front of one) then I do on stage, or sitting at a desk writing my masterpiece. In fact you can end up spending so much time at work that sometimes you forget that you’re not actually an aspiring bartender.
The service industry is a fickle beast, and a minx, she’ll lure you in with decent pay, flexible hours and free family meals. Before you know it, you’re thirty five years old owning your own bar and telling your guests stories about the time you almost, very nearly made it as a spoken word artist. Don’t get me wrong, this life is great, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, it’s just not what you set out to achieve. The job you had to help pay your student loans, or something to support you while you were rehearsing became five nights a week/doubles/managing/70 hour weeks and that one day off was spent asleep or drunk.
Then comes the realization that you can only work on a certain number of productive things a day; that number varies from day-to-day but usually gravitates around the number one. It becomes increasingly difficult to be the next Hemingway or Miles Davis or Justin Bieber when the only productive thing you do during your day off is either shit, masturbate, or, and if you’re feeling particularly adventurous; do laundry. If you’ve got a girlfriend/boyfriend your time is then halved further by spending that last remaining energy fostering that special bond that may or may not, eventuate into something meaningful.
As a way to combat your errant mind and affinity to the lackadaisical you write to do lists. To do lists are the guidepost of the creative arts workers, checking something as insignificant off as, read emails, can be as monumental as if you signed the Declaration of independence yourself. This is magnified a thousandfold, when you just spent the last ten hours of your day serving reveling civilians dry martinis, dry white wines, wet pussies, salty dogs, dirty, twisted, up or over or any other number of variations on the theme to keep them in the perpetual stupor they’ve become accustomed to. At this point checking your emails is a feat in and of itself worthy of at least the rest of the afternoon off. If you write something; anything, a phrase, a paragraph, or god forbid an entire piece you’re so pleased with yourself that you take the rest of the month off.
It’s easy to see why many people fall down the hole of the service industry, its lucrative and fun and for the most it feels as if you’re still fulfilling your goals. You’ll still do shows or get a couple of things published, but at some point you’ll eventually give up, you won’t realize it but other things will start to take priority over your creative endeavors; your job, your girlfriend, your bar, Fernet, beer, owning a car, getting a Costco card, bikram yoga, getting your chakras in line. At this point doing a local production of some Sam Shepard play that’s been done to death for the 50th time out somewhere in the Central Valley seems like a good idea, but at least you have your health and a flat screen TV, and you’re completely up-to-date on the latest episode of Kitchen Nightmares.
The service industry will take all those years of discipline, all those hours spent doing writing exercises, going to dance classes, acting schools, internships and residencies and convert them into a new cocktail, an idea for a bar, menu design or even just ways of dealing with patrons. That’s fine, you could have spent the rest of your life poor, inconsolable on the edge of a myriad of mental illnesses, and all for maybe the chance of writing something that doesn’t get recognized till after you’re dead. Or you invent a delicious drink that helps people get laid…every goddamn night.