How do you know, within the first 10 pages of a book, if it was written by a feminist? First, you’ll notice signs of self-flagellation - with a hint of oversharing. Afterwards, you are likely to witness an intense session of self-love, followed by unabashed self-bigging-up in form of grandiose statements. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on which side of the table you are sitting), "Real Artists Have Day Jobs" by Sara Benincasa ticks these boxes.

"Real Artists Have Day Jobs" is a collection of essays on issues such as mental illness, creativity, relationships, work, etc. The book reads like a series of light blog posts - you will find no in-depth analysis or intellectual discussion here. Most of the articles in the book are based on the author's past experiences and how she overcame her situation and moved on. "Real Artists Have Day Jobs"sometimes feels like reading the lost-but-found letters of your weird but interesting aunt.

For example, in the first essay of the book, the author advises artists not to wait on external validation before referring to themselves as artists. She writes:
Have you ever described yourself as someone who does something amazing and magical and wonderful and life affirming and then added 'on the side'?
...Because I have come here today to deliver the unfortunate truth that you are lying to yourselfYou are not going to become a real artist one dayYou are a real artist right nowYou are a real artist when you sit in traffic, when you wait for the dentist, when you clean up the toys in your kid's bedroom.

Also, on the importance of having close confidantes, Sara Benincasa writes in the essay, "Elect Your Own Executive Board":
Any successful corporation has an executive board of individuals who presumably guide the complex, multicelled business organism towards a bright and prosperous future. Ideally, each board member brings to the table a unique and valuable set of skills that enhances the operations of the board and, by extension, the entire company.I figure, why not do this for a human being? Luke Skywalker had Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, plus Han Solo and Leia and Chewbacca and other teammates. Why not create a dream team of your very own?Your executive board needn't be comprised of superstars... or adorable animatronic puppets like Yoda. The board members should be people you trust. They should have sharp minds, good hearts, and a generosity of spirit. They may not all agree with one another, which is absolutely fine. Your aim in selecting them is to get a variety of perspectives on your life from people who are invested in your well-being but can remain clear-eyed enough to give you a logical evaluation.

Talking heads

Real Artists Have Day Jobs is full of uncomplicated but relevant observations about modern life. The author's no-nonsense approach strengthens its impact, making the book an engaging read. If you are a fan of Amy Poehler, Roxane Gay, Mindy Kaling and the likes, then you'll probably love this book.

Turn offs? Well... there is a bit of oversharing for one. Vulnerability is different from "my scars are probably bigger than yours" pose, which this book kind of projects. Also, most of the essays focus heavily on women's issues (though the author makes an effort to balance it out by addressing men on a few occasions).

Overall, Real Artists Have Day Jobs is a fun and insightful book, though I wouldn't adopt any relationship advice from it.

Many thanks to Morrow Paperbacks for review copy.

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