Pursuing A Creative Career: 10 Things That I have Learned In 2017

1.     Time restraints are not your enemy.

When I eventually confess that I don’t really know what I’m doing over a few beers, people will often respond by saying, “you’re in no rush”, but I shake my head and say, “It’s easy for you to say! You’re a US citizen!” Not being a US citizen makes it a little more difficult to relax. I have limited time left in the USA legally before applying for a long-term Visa (don’t even get me started on the stresses of that) and if there is one thing I have learnt, it is that this time restraint has pushed me to work harder than ever. I wake up knowing that every day counts and by sending that Email or conducting that project or committing to that job, is a step closer to achieving my creative dreams. Time is the one thing we have absolutely zero control over so there is no point in worrying about it. Let’s use it to our advantage.

2.     Your space must inspire you.

This brings me to number 2, living in a neighborhood and surrounding yourself in a space that inspires you is key to letting your creative juices flow. I have been living in a loft in Bushwick for almost 2 years and despite it’s routine maintenance, the energy that this place exudes fills me. I went apartment hunting a few months ago, but we ended up extending the lease on the loft anyway. It wasn’t because I didn’t like the apartments I saw, it was because I wasn’t inspired in any of them. When pursuing a creative career, I find that I work more efficiently when those with the same creative interests surround me. When I walk down my street and see painters, photographers and writers in cafes doing their thing, I feel motivated to do my thing.

3.     You’re in this alone and that’s exactly how it should be.

The other day I found myself having my (lately) usual quarter-life crisis and called my dad. He’s always been a bit worried about my creative pursuits so I knew what I was getting into, but wanted some reassurance anyway. He asked me what made me think I could now pursue a “dying art”, aka photography and while I sat on the ground of my bedroom floor and listened silently, I came to the realization that I am deep in this alone. (Don’t get me wrong, my father is the reason why I am able to live here <<literally>> and for that I am extremely privileged), but I realized that the best thing for me to do right now is to go deep in my creative endeavors alone and come out the other end strong. I even decided to snap some self-portraits while I was on the phone. I have to accept that my dad isn’t going to give me the advice I am looking for, but after we had that conversation, I am more motivated to make him proud. Not everyone is going to understand or agree with what I am doing, but I think that’s how it is meant to be.

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 4.     Nice people succeed.

Fuck the bullshit with, “nice people finish last”. Working underneath people who are higher on the creative career ladder than me has been an eye-opener, especially when working with the same age group. Just as we all have, I have met some incredible humans in this industry, but I haven’t been prone to the nasty’s. It’s disappointing when you get a chance to work with someone whose artistry you really value and they are not as nice are you hoped they would be. That being said, it’s truly enlightening when you meet irreplaceable and supportive artists. I’ve really become aware of the kind of people that I want to work with and the kind of professional that I aspire to be.

5.     It’s not easy.

In fact, it’s really fucking hard. The amount of work that goes into pursuing a creative career is intense, but it’s the life that I have chosen and I have chosen it for a reason. When I am at my lowest, I question why I didn’t choose to be a vet (A very realistic possibility when I graduated from school). I could be a doctor in two years and be set for life. It doesn’t take me long to remember that I simply want to be in a creative career more and if I had chosen another career path, I would still be questioning myself. Nothing in life comes easy, but it’s worth a shot and I think it would be pretty fucking amazing to come out the other end and say I did it. Humans are fucking incredible – we are capable of building skyscrapers out of nothing and flying into space… Like… What?

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6.     A new found respect for those who succeed without training.

I couldn’t imagine not attending university for 5+ years, so for me to move to the States to study Acting for a short two years, was a pretty huge deal for my family and me. I never would have thought that I would have had the guts to graduate from acting school, let alone decide to immediately pursue photography, a career that I had no experience in the minute I graduated. It’s one thing to graduate and be at the bottom of your profession… well, it’s another to be at the very bottom without any training. After experiencing some difficulties that come with entering unknown territories, including how to appropriately format a resume in the US, I have gained a lot of respect for creatives who power through and educate themselves and succeed. A degree does not need to define your creativity.

 7.     When you are focused on your career goals, the rest is bullshit.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past year in toxic relationships with people and technology instead of really focusing on my goals. I had visions of where I wanted to be, but I still chose the unimportant things that didn’t get me any closer to my desired destination. It took me a while to realize that when I focus on where I want to be in a year, I am able to narrow down what really matters to me and make a more informed decision based on this. The negative traps that I (still) fall into don’t get me to where I want to be any quicker. In fact, they slow me down. It’s about eliminating the toxicity by dreaming big.

8.     If no one accepts your work, create your own.

When you don’t have a huge social media following or published work, it can be difficult to gain acknowledgment. I’ve submitted to so many printed and online publications and once in a blue moon will my submission be accepted. Instead of letting this dishearten me, I have found joy in ditching the submissions every now and then and instead, continuing to conceptualize my own ideas, reach out to individuals and go ahead and play! Instead of refreshing that Email page, refresh your creativity and your work will shine. I also built a website with one of my best friends, where we can share our words, photographs and videos as our own creative outlet!

9.     I love being my own fan!

In order to grow, you must maintain a balance between loving your work you produce and critically evaluating it. As artists, we have no trouble in bashing our own hard work, yet when faced with critiquing an admired artist, we do so, whilst maintaining loyalty and respect for their work and self. When you view yourself as your own fan, you are more stimulated by your ideas and thus, have the ability to evaluate your art more critically and enhance your work. I hate being so hard on myself. I want to create work that I look at and love. I want to be proud.

10.  Never stop pushing forward.

Obviously everyone needs a break to rejuvenate in between work because if you are anything like me, your brain will turn to absolute mush if you stare at a computer screen for hours on end working and refreshing. But, in saying that, a really important thing that I have learnt is to never stop pushing forward and never stop producing work because how on Earth do I expect my work to be acknowledged if I don’t put it out there to start with? Writing ‘to do’ lists and ticking them off at the end of the day is honestly the most satisfying thing and once you are in the rhythm, you don’t want to stop. I like to dedicate at least one full day a week to sitting in a café by myself and grinding through my goals for the day aka sending emails, submitting work and creating work. Just make sure you don’t push your self too hard and taking a nice walk after a day at a café, away from your computer is my favorite way to de-clutter my brain.