When I was younger I was fascinated by people who had abnormal work hours. I romanticized the idea of bakers and plow drivers who worked all night and slept during the day. How great would it be, I wondered, to be awake when everyone else was a sleep and have your free time when everyone else was at work.
Now I know, and like most things of this sort, it's not that glamorous.
As a private music instructor, my hours are dictated by the free time of my students, meaning I can't start teaching until after school is out and I have to end my teaching when parents are no longer willing to bring their kids out for a lesson. Basically this comes down to 3:00-8:30 every day and weekend mornings. Most schools get out around 3:00, and from what I've gathered, the average elementary/middle school bedtime is 8:45. So even though 3:00-8:30 is my time to teach, it is difficult for many students to make it to the music school earlier than 4:00 and parents don't like to keep their kids out after 7:30. Luckily there are enough students who make it to these border times for me to put together a reasonable day.
So essentially, 3:00-8:30. If I can fill up 5 straight hours with students it's a big success. So that leaves me with the hours of 8:00am-3:00 and 8:30-midnight to figure out how to live the rest of the my life.
Contrary to what I think many people believe about musicians, I do not spend every morning sleeping until noon and every night partying at bars. Mornings are my work time on hobbies, and other musical projects (the kind that don't really make any money). It's also time for me to go to schools if I've got accompanying jobs, practice other instruments, and yes, use as relaxation.
In our society we automatically assume that the things other people do are 1) unusual 2) inferior to our own way of life. When I tell people that I spend time in the afternoon relaxing I'm usually met with giggles and scorn. If the rest of the world is at work, shouldn't I be too? I think of it this way: While the rest of the world is coming home, making dinner and popping their feet up to watch re-runs of Project Runway, I'm at work. While you're at work, I'm allowed to do some of that as well. Especially because I often work once I get home after teaching. I work before I go to work. And sometimes I work during my "non-work" time. This "work" time doesn't always earn me a lot of money, but it's still mentally taxing and within my profession.
Sometimes I get questioning looks with my definition of work. When I'm writing and recording music I call that work. When I'm practicing piano I call that work. Yes it's fun but it's also difficult and tiring. I earn very little money doing those things, but I do have some portion of my income which is helped along by my side-projects. I think the misunderstanding from others comes from the fact that their jobs are not also their hobbies. Most tax consultants don't do their job all day and then go home and for fun do more taxes. I don't think that custodians go home and break their own heating just for the chance to fix it. I'm a musician, and I enjoy what I do, so I do it all of the time.
Self-discipline is the hardest thing about being self-employed with odd working hours. It's easy to fall into a rhythm of waking up on the couch, turning the TV on, going to work in the afternoon, coming home to the couch, turning the TV on and falling asleep only to repeat day in and day out. It sounds great, and it's 100% possible. I could do that right now. Always having projects going and sticking to some semblance of a daily schedule is what keeps me going and keeps me sane. Occasionally I will have a lazy day when I don't accomplish anything and I think that's alright. I consider them vacation days. Most of the time though I keep a fairly tight discipline. This helps me accomplish my musical goals as well as stay happier and more motivated. Here's a typical schedule of my day:
8:00-8:30 - wake up and eat breakfast
8:30-12:00 - record/write music, write blog posts, compose, practice
12:00-1:30 - eat lunch, watch TV or part of a movie, practice mandolin/guitar while watching
1:30-2:00 - shower (yes, I often wait to shower until after lunch)
2:00-2:30 - practice drums
2:30 - drive to work
2:45-3:30 - practice piano
3:30-8:00 - teach piano
8:15 - drive home
8:30-9:45 - make and eat dinner
10:00-11:30 - write/record music/practice an instrument
11:30-12:00 - decompress (a quiet, non-computerized activity for 30 minutes before bed)
12:00 - bed
Not every day is like this. There are days when I can't motivate myself to do any music work in the morning, and there are days when I'm so motivated that I eat a quick lunch and record all the way up until I leave for work.
Mostly what I want to get across is that most musicians and music teachers aren't lazy because they only work between the hours of 3:00 and 8:00. Just because their hours don't match up with your own doesn't mean that they're doing it wrong. If I could teach piano from 9:00-5:00 every day I'd be doing it immediately (and I'd be making a lot of more money) but the fact is I can't, because it's impossible. So next time your music friend tells you that they stayed in their pajamas until noon don't get high-and-mighty. Not all work is done in a suit and tie. Your friend may be working their ass off every day. If you know they aren't, and they're just sitting around eating frosted flakes from dawn to dusk, then go ahead and judge, but really, aren't you just jealous?