The only thing more brutal than a New York City winter is the cost of living through it.

Most artists drawn to the Big Apple with goals of making it big often have to fund their dreams through part-time work that becomes full time, pushing their passionately held plans to the outer banks of possibility.

In a still-tough economy, expensive New York may be the worst place for creative types -- writers, painters, songwriters -- to pursue a far-fetched first career. But some are making ends meet by turning to more realistic ones, deciding against side jobs -- waitressing, bartending or others viewed by many as marginal -- and instead developing strong second careers that have led to six-figure incomes and a way to make good on their dreams.

Park Slope-based author David Grand, whose new novel, "Mount Terminus," is due out in March, is under no illusions about the lifeline that tenured teaching at Fairleigh Dickinson University provided him.

"I am trying to raise a family in New York City. My wife and I have teenage twin sons, so there's no way around it," he said. "Novel advances for literary fiction are wonderful when you get them, but the money only goes so far."

Many others are in high-end niche service industries, not the traditional transient gigs of waiting tables and walking dogs. The market is there: The city has more than 400,000 millionaires.

Clinton Hill resident Adam Figueroa owns and operates a fitness company, Adams Apple NY. He graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1992 with plans to become an illustrator. Finding work hard to come by, he waited tables and began personal-training. Two decades later, he spends wintry weeks in St. Barts and summers in the Hamptons, earning a six-figure salary by helping high-end clients stay lean and mean.

"It wasn't always like this," said Figueroa, who continues to take illustration courses. "You just have to keep going."

For those sticking it out, Grand offers this wry advice:

"One of the great advantages of living in New York," he said, "is that it's so easy to find other artists to share in your misery. Seek them out, have a good cry and find it within yourself to get on with it."

Jeff Vasishta lives in Crown Heights.