A Year Without Work
I have decided to do a year long performance art piece/experiment where I don’t do any work.
To be fair—I’m using a limited definition of the word work to make sure I can still make art, clean my house, and certain other things we often call “work;” I’m defining it as “a task, or series of tasks, that are done specifically for money or social obligation, especially things I otherwise wouldn’t want to do.”
The purpose of this is not to be lazy for a year, to live without money, or to declare money or working as bad. My purpose is to create a shift in my own thinking and being—to stop creating things under the influence of what might sell the best, or be worth the most money, and to stop taking jobs I don’t want just to pay some bills. Ideally, I would like to spend the year focused on creating what I’m most excited to create, helping people purely for the love of it, and doing awesome things in general.
I would like my art to be more unencumbered, and I would like my life to be my main artistic medium. I would like to see if I can live this ecstatically and this radically and still thrive.
I wish to help all people equally, not just the ones with money. I want to do only what I’m the most moved to do, not what I feel obligated to do.
My choices for this year will be made mostly viscerally, rather than intellectually. I will be doing and creating, but only what feels right. I will be saying “no” to all things that feel like work. I will not be creating things that have limitations or obligations imposed on them by others.
In the true spirit of the project, I will also allow myself to quit this experiment at any time, though I hope that I don’t.
So, how does money fit into this? If someone wants to offer me money for something I have already done, that’s great! If I can find a positive way to make this happen I will be happy to do so. If someone feels moved to send a donation for what I put out into the world, it is very much appreciated!
If I decide to spend some time helping someone, and they feel inspired to give something back, that’s great! Any support I receive makes me more able to do more positive things.
How do I expect to survive without trying to make money? (Hint: I don’t have a trust fund or huge pile of cash in my freezer.) I don't know exactly, but this plan is honestly pretty close to how I live already. This is partly because I keep my cost of living low, and partly because my fun personal projects seem to generate at least as much income for me as the paid jobs. As an example: One day I decided to write out my methods for the creative process in my journal—for fun and with the hope that I could use it to help my friends. It turned out so well that I decided to show an editor, and it’s now being published as a book, for which I've been paid and will receive royalties. Almost no unpleasantness was involved.
You can see how this isn’t going to be a huge shift for my life in some regards, but it will still be a very official and public shift.
Also, I realize that it’s likely that I will receive negative feedback, but I hope all discussions will remain constructive. Even if you disagree with me you can still use this project for positive and enlightening purposes; it’s not my intention to declare any way of living as the best or worst, or that I’m right and everyone else is wrong. Please take it, and subsequent writings about it, merely as a stepping off point for ideas and discussion.
I also recognize that while I’m not rich, or supported by someone who is, the fact that I can do this at all means I do have some privilege. I have enough great people in my life that I know there is a safety net for me if I could no longer afford food or housing. For that I am grateful.
Additionally, it’s important to recognize that the ability to work is also a privilege that not everyone has.
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- I will not do any work for a year (as defined above) beginning on August 21 2015
- I will focus on living creatively, authentically, and positively, in the way that I feel is most beneficial to myself and others
- I will not let money, or even the possibility of money, cause me to do things that are a detraction from what I feel I truly want and need to do, both artistically and in life
- I will only accept money for things I have made if I can do so in a way that is positive for all involved
- I will only accept gifts or donations that have no obligations or expectations attached
- If I need to do work that is completely unavoidable I will hire someone else to do it
- If this project becomes work at any time, I will quit doing it and declare publicly that I am doing so