Tips for juggling creativity and work: part two

This week, I bring you Tori’s tips for juggling creativity and work.

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Creative type No. 2

Tori, food writer and communications officer

1.  What’s your creative passion or dream?

To live well and share that fun by writing about it. In my early 20’s I wasn’t very well -there were a few  years when I spent a disproportionate amount of time in bed- I kept the brain ticking by writing a terrible terrible novel. I learned that when things are a bit rocky time spent on the couch with a lap rug, cup of tea, and an internal conversation can be instantly comforting. I’m not quite sure where the cooking thing came from; I grew up in a household where food was about fuel, not fantasy. In my blog I call the husband ‘The Hungry One” and I think he’s had a huge role- the satisfaction of feeding and delighting someone you adore can’t be underestimated.  These days I love nothing more than reading other people’s writing about food, cooking and travel; so I try and add to those conversations by writing about what we do. Even if it the writing goes nowhere, hopefully when I’m old I’ll have an excellent dossier of a life well lived.

2.  How do you support yourself financially?

I spend a lot of time taking capital letters up and down in a communications job for a government agency. In my spare time, I write about food for yourrestaurants.com and am always trying to get some more freelance work going. The husband is endlessly patient with my meagre contributions to the household bottom line.

3.  Are there sacrifices involved in following your creative dream, and what makes it worthwhile?

The ego is a tough one; the suspicion that you’re not advancing as quickly as you perhaps could in the ‘real world’ job because of your creative choices. But at the end of the day, it’s about what makes you happy- and the real world doesn’t always do that.

4.  Do you hope to support yourself through your creative work / do you already?

I’d love to earn a bit more cash from it. One day I’d love nothing more than to have two smiley little kids on the carpet tottering about while I get to write.

5.  What are your top three tips for managing a creative passion?

Make sure that whoever shares your life supports your creative life too.

Don’t be afraid to talk about what you do- I wish when you meet people they wouldn’t instantly ask ‘where do you work’, but instead ask ‘what do you love to do?’

If it stops making you happy; give yourself permission to take a break until you feel the urge to play again.

6.  Where would you like to be in your life in five years time, and what are three things you are doing now to get you there?

See above; sitting on a couch somewhere with one happy little muffin on the floor and maybe another in the oven, writing and earning a little bit of money from it would be perfect.

Being able to properly poach eggs (always my downfall)

Maybe turning the writing into a book (but this one may see the light of day)…

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Thanks Tori!  To visit Tori’s blog and hear some truly excellent foodie tales, go to http://eat-tori.blogspot.com

To see last week’s tips, from playwright and business analyst David, click here.

I have one more set of tips to bring you, from the lovely, art’n’crafty Kate over at http://love-you-big.blogspot.com. I’ll publish that in a couple of weeks – might be a bit busy next week, getting married.

Tips for juggling creativity and work: part 1

Some time ago, I wrote a post called “The Juggling Act.” I got quite a lot of responses from you guys, about how you face the challenge of juggling creativity and a paying job.  So I thought I would interview three creative types and get their insights about how they do the juggle. This week’s creative type is:

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Creative Type No. 1:

David Sharpe, playwright and business analyst for the creative industries

David was a recent finalist in the Short’n’Sweet play competition, and won best emerging playwright award.  He’s currently working on a number of play and film projects.

1.  What’s your creative passion or dream?
To write for theatre and for film/television.

2.  How do you support yourself financially?
I work full time in arts management.

3.  Are there sacrifices involved in following your creative dream, and what makes it worthwhile?

It’s the other way round.  It’s my creative output that suffers from me working full time. So the sacrifice is less time spent writing and learning how to do it better. But I like the security of full time work and the bonus is that I enjoy working in arts management.

What makes this juggling act worthwhile is two things:

  • seeing my work performed and
  • being able to pay the mortgage.
  • 4.  Do you hope to support yourself through your creative work / do you already?
    No.  I hope to be able to continue to work full time and find enough time to pursue my writing.

    5.  What are your top three tips for managing a creative passion?

  • Commit to it.  Set yourself goals. Where you can, quit other things you’re doing and pursue your creative work (I know, I know.  How can I say this when I’m working full time?  But you can cut out the other stuff around you – for instance, I’m currently finishing and unrelated degree early in order to concentrate on my writing).
  • Continually improve your work.  Seek criticism of your work from smart, talented people.  Don’t be precious about it – it’s vital.  You won’t be able to manage a creative passion if your product is no good.
  • Find people who can help.  Make contacts, pursue opportunities, create a network.  In turn, take time to help those people who help you.  If nothing else, you meet some great people!  But it’s practical too – I know that none of my work would have got to stage without the efforts of others, so I keep networking.
  • 6.  Where would you like to be in your life in five years time, and what are three things you are doing now to get you there?

    I’d like to still be pursuing my career in arts management.  I will probably still be working full time – though possibly I might move to working for myself.

    Creatively, I’d like to have a range of plays and scripts ready for production and available to exploit.  I’d like at least some of those plays be in regular demand for production, and to generate a small stream of income.  And I’d like to eventually – maybe in five years, maybe sooner or later – have a full length play produced by a major company and published.  How’s that?

    I’m searching for professional development opportunities.  Making contact with people who can improve my writing.

    I’m looking for opportunities for my work to be performed – in essence, bringing it to the attention of others who can produce it.

    I’ve set some goals for the year – to continue to develop one full-length script and to write the first draft of another.  To have two more short plays produced.  To enter one new competition.  To access two professional development opportunities. To write two short film scripts – one new and one adapted from a previous work.  Some of these are done already!  And some haven’t been started…

    And just for the moment, I’m not writing.  No time.  But soon there will be and until then there’s other stuff I can do.  I’m reading, watching, listening, researching, making notes – so that I’ll be ready to work.

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    A big thank you to David for giving us such honest and useful advice!  Next week, I’ll publish Tori’s tips.  Tori is a food writer by night, a communications officer by day.  You can check out her blog at http://eat-tori.blogspot.com/

    Juggling act

    I have a sore index finger on my left hand, which is making a’s and e’s a bit of an effort tonight.  That’s an advance apology for typos.

    I’m looking for you guys to share your practical advice on the juggling act of a creative life and paid work.

    I have been thinking today (and, to be honest, for many ,many moons, stretching back to when I was 17, which was a loooong time ago) about the juggling act of working and creating.  That (that “that” took me three goes.  Poor finger) sounds a bit pompous, so I’ll try again.  The balancing act that many of us go through to do our creative endeavours on the side (notice I don’t call them “work,” because I am deeply superstitious that if I call my creative stuff “work,” I will suddenly become productivity-driven and pump out twenty meaningless chapters before realising it’s all disingeuous tripe.  It’s happened before) and manage paid work, even a career, on the other side.

    I know about a billion people who find themselves in this position.  Some would like to do their creative pursuits full-time, others are quite happy with doing them on the side.  Me, I am quite happy doing them part-time at the moment, because if I was to go full-time writing, I think I would cave in under the sudden pressure to make my writing “succeed” in a more traditional, income-generating sense.  I have a game plan which is to work towards 100% income from creative work, but it is going to be a gradual, staged process, and it does wonders for my insecure mind to know that I am progressing my non-creative career at the same time as my creative one at present, and will not be under any pressure to switch 100% to the creative one until I have proven it can pull in some bucks.  I’m not dreaming of big bucks, (OK sometimes I am), but really just enough for the basics, from doing what I love.  That would be awesome.  But I know myself well enough from past attempts at going into free-fall (ie supporting my creative pursuits solely through meaningless casual work or savings) that my brain runs and hides from the scariness, and I need a “real” job to trick myself into the relaxed, open frame of mind to write.

    I have tried  at least twice before to totally quit a “real” career and just write.  The first time, I wanted to write a non-fiction book about happiness.  I had written an opinion editorial, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald, and which a publisher was interested in seeing a book proposal for.  I spent three months trying to write.  My friends always laugh to hear that I got really depressed in the process (not because they are mean, but just because of the irony).  I couldn’t do it!  I couldn’t write!  I went back to part-time work and have stayed in part-time work ever since.  That’s the book I like to say I had to not write.  

    Two years later I gave it another shot.  I had just been offered a promotion at my work, and that freaked me out sufficiently to send me sprinting from Canberra to Melbourne, quitting my job and enrolling at the last minute in a digital media course to kick-start my filmmaking career.  I made two documentaries, and almost had another nervous breakdown.  It was the pressure to succeed creatively that did it.  After nine months of casual work and telling myself I was OK, I finally let go of the bohemian ideal got a “real” job, one which was progressing my other, public service career, and felt much better.  The pains in my stomach disappeared.  I lost 10 kilos (in a healthy way, not from stress).  

    I still work part-time, in a different city again (Sydney – that’s another story).  I still write (obviously). 

    I am curious – more than curious – how others do it?  How do you guys view your creative lives, and how do you conduct the balancing act: at a practical, day-to-day level, in your heads, and in your hearts, that allows you to do what you need to do, to “follow your bliss” (as my fiance calls it)?  It would be great if we could share our insights and practical tips about this.

    I’d say my top three tips are:

    1. You don’t have to be a bohemian risk-taker and throw away your other career in order to be a creative artist.  You just have to do what keeps your mind and heart open and secure enough to do your thing.

    2.  It’s important to remain absolutely focused.  Things which look like they might be on the right track can be deceptively close to what you want to do, but still aren’t.  For me, a good example would have been to do a short story collection for the publisher, when all I really wanted was to do Mr Middleton as an illustrated book and focus on writing my novel. It looked and smelt like it was on the right track to writing as a full-time job, but it would have betrayed where my creative mojo was at, and that is your most valuable asset in the creative journey.

    3.  Emotional and mental space is just as important as physical space and time.  My “real” job in Melbourne got to be so busy and all-consuming, that even though I had one day off a week (Fridays), I was so exhausted and worries that I couldn’t do my art.  Now I have to be very strict with myself, to the point of trying to limit my after-work conversation about work to a minimum of the first hour after getting home.  Otherwise it sits in your brain and takes over the network.

    You can email me on jackie@thosecreativetypes.com or comment below.  To see an article I wrote about this for Online Opinion, click here.  To read the article I wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald, click here.