WDTWFM #1: “Real Artists Have Dayjobs” by Sara Benincasa

I am starting a new series (well, I hope it’ll become one eventually) where I look at a thing I enjoyed and, more importantly, WHY I think enjoyed it. I hope that’ll help me to figure out what I am actually looking for with my entertainment – and how to make my own creations better.

I swear the bookstore in Waterloo Station is in cahoots with South West Trains. Half of their revenue probably comes from people bored out of their mind because the trains, once again, run late.

That’s exactly how I ended up with “Real Artists Have Dayjobs”  by Sara Benincasa during Southwest’s latest “no train service for two hours nyahahaha” outage. It had a cute cover and I was stressed and thus in the mood for some potentially helpful fluff.

And while I’d prefer more punctual trains, I don’t regret purchasing that book at all.  I genuinely enjoyed my time spent with this paper back.

So, what is “Real Artists Have Dayjobs”?

A cheap-ish self-help paperback, of all things.

It contains of 52 essays, some long, some short, all with a rather funky chapter-title type-setting. And it has far less to do with artists and dayjobs than the title suggests – only the essay the book’s named after dealt with this particular issue. Instead the author spends more time talking about her mental health struggle and how to adult when life’s hounding you, which is far more entertaining than it sounds.

Is it good?

Eeeh… Yes. Not great, but good. It’s definitely entertaining, though.

Some of the essays had me nodding along, others roll my eyes, but all in all reading the book was time well spent. It didn’t contain any new, ground breaking things, but few self-help books do. Humans had to deal with being humans for thousands of years now.

Why did this book work for me?

  1. Voice.
    This book is really funny and personable. I mean, it better be, consider it is written by a comedian, but I find many, many comedians just plain boring. This book however managed the rare feat of making me laugh on the train.
    I do not know yet what exactly I liked this author’s voice so much, beyond the fact that it felt earnest instead of patronizing. It was fascinating enough I looked for her blog – but unfortunately she isn’t blogging currently.
  2. Affirmation
    It was good to read about someone relatively successful despite not having all her shit together. It helped to read about someone struggling, succeeding – and backsliding into struggle again, because, you know, that happens to me, too. It helped to see someone’s coping strategies detailed, even though they definitely wouldn’t work as mine.
  3. Quick, Easy Read
    The fact that this book wasn’t particularly deep actually helped my enjoyment, since I started reading it after a quite stressful day at work. Thanks to the essay-structure it hit the sweet spot of being interesting enough to keep my attention, but not too challenging for my work-fried brain.

Would you like it?

Maybe.

This book is not for you if you don’t like reading about other people’s struggles, be they petty or life-destroyingly huge. You will hate it if you don’t like the author’s voice.

But if you like reading about people finding the funny bits in their dark and hard stuff, and share that authors sense of humour, you might love it.

Audience reaction seems to be split, some love it, some hate it. But I think it’s definitely worth to checking it out to see if it might be for you. You can pick it up on Amazon, and the Kindle edition is at the time of writing this less than £2.

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