Most of my life, I’ve made my living in what people called “high technology.” I wrote computer software back in the 70s and 80s, then transitioned in the 90s and 00s over to database design, which is still a kind of software engineering. I was also an independent video producer for awhile, so that was a different kind of “high tech” work.
Now, of course, we use computers for almost everything, including graphic art, sound recording, video production, writing poetry, you name it! Even so-called “3D Printing” can be used to create sculptures.
But when I step back, all these things are “art” in a way. They involve creativity and an understanding of the characteristics of the medium at hand. Some involve more “logical” thinking than others, but they all have creativity in common. To me, they are all really “art,” just in different media.
The main difference is how much you can get paid! It’s funny how, if you can’t get paid much, or the tools you use are somewhat primitive, then you’re an “artist,” but if you get well paid or your art involves modern technology, then it must be something else.
I’ve been recording videos, taking photographs, and writing for many years. But because I got well paid to do software engineering, database design, and even video production (sometimes), I shied away from calling myself an artist.
Back in 2014, I decided to write and publish my first book. During that time I kept up with my existing database clients, but I failed to go out and shake the trees for more work. Some of my existing clients faded away during that time. So, now I have very few database clients left.
My dreams of making it big with my book were dashed when the reality of publishing hit me early this year. In general, you don't write a book to make money, you write a book to lose money. Indeed, I have yet to break even selling my book, even though I've sold over 300 copies so far. It's not that I didn't try really hard, or that I didn't price it so that I get a good return as an author. It's that I dreamed of my "wonderful" book selling thousands of copies. These days, that's really rare, no matter how good your book is. We're all competing with something like 40,000 books published every year! That's one hell of a lot of competition when you're trying to stand out from the crowd!!
But I digress. The point is, ...
Suddenly, I’m struggling financially, for the first time in a long time. So, presto! Now that I think of myself as poor, I must be a true artist, right? Ha ha!
Recently, it hit me when someone repeated the classic line, “Well, don’t quit your day job!” We think of actors who wait tables, writers who drive taxis (or now for Lyft or Uber) or rock band musicians who move furniture. So my “day job” was working with computers (although I did drive a taxi way back in 1980).
But my “day job” has actually quit me too, in a way. FileMaker, the database product I have been working with since the mid 1980s (and earning a living with since the early 1990s) has evolved. Technologically, it keeps getting more and more sophisticated, with more and more features to keep up with. But even more importantly, FileMaker, inc. has decided that their market is more with medium sized businesses than individuals, so they changed their pricing structure and focus to reflect that. But I love working with the “little guy,” so to speak, and that market has all but dried up completely. Very few self employed people are going to shell out $500 for a piece of software these days, unless their needs are very sophisticated and they have the income to support such expenditures. Of course, that’s the smallest cost in the game when the computer it runs on costs more than that, and my services, at over $100 per hour, can quickly eclipse that amount.
But, again, I digress. The writing on the wall is that I need to make some changes! And, I really want to change things. As I get older, my interests have changed.
Then something happened recently that pointed me in a new direction (even though it's an old direction, in a way):
About a month ago, an old friend contacted me to help her organize the files on her computer, then make the transition from her old computer to a new one. I would work for “credit hours” through the Cambridge Time Trade Circle, a kind of new economy. I agreed and we got started.
While working with her, I began to show her how to use some of the features built into her computer that she could use to continue working with her files after we were done with our sessions. I showed her, step by step, how to do what I was doing and answered all her questions. She wrote down instructions for herself to use later.
After a few sessions, she told me how incredibly grateful she was with my help! She told me how computer experts had helped her in the past, but they never explained what they were doing in a way that she could understand. They just sat down, made some changes & said “OK, here you go.” The next time she got stuck, she still didn’t know what to do. I have often heard this from other friends of mine, as well.
I love to teach people things and explain things in ways that others can understand. I want people to be more empowered to do things for themselves. I certainly don’t want to become an indispensable technology “priest” who performs mysterious “magic” on people’s computers that no mere mortal (or muggle?) can ever understand. Ugh.
So, I thought this over. Yes, I know a few other people who have good “people skills” as well as a thorough knowledge of computer technology. But I know vastly more people who need help with this sort of thing, so I’m sure there is still a “market” for what I like to do. The only problem is that my “candle” is hiding “under a bushel” at the moment. I need to get the word out that I am available to do this work, what my rates are, and how to contact me.
Of course, this is my “day job” in a way. But it is certainly a job I want to do well, just as someone who waits tables wants to do well by their guests (and not just for the tips). My art (that is, my photography, my videos, and my writing), are still center stage for me. And my desire to help people struggling with their gender identity is definitely a big priority for me as well.
So here I am introducing my “Life 4.0” (or whatever version I’m up to). Help people with their technology (be it computers, video or otherwise) as well as pursue my creativity in all the areas I desire.
This is all really a continuum for me, as teaching is also an art, whether I’m teaching them about how to use the technology available, or teaching them how to stand tall in their gender identity and dispel fear, shame, and embarrassment about being ones true self.