8 Things You Learn When You Do Something Creative For A Living
Want to know a secret? Everybody does something creative for a living. "Creativity" is just "creation" — coming up with a new scientific formula or a strategy to sell a car is as creative as selling paintings for a living is. I'm saying this because it's important to recognize that everybody does something that in some way requires creative ability, but there is a difference between jobs that require creativity and jobs that are pure creativity, otherwise known as the "arts."
Never before has it been so easy to make your living from being an artist. We literally have an outlet at our fingertips that not only consumes and supports individual artists but also makes it possible for them to make a pretty significant income doing so (think: bloggers, vloggers, digital marketplaces, online courses, and so on). It's an incredible time to be a professional writer/painter/jewelry maker/video taker/what-have-you, but that isn't to say this field doesn't come with its own host of unique challenges.
The biggest mistake people make when pursuing a job in the arts is the idea that "doing what you love" or "doing what you're passionate about" is the same thing as doing what's easy. It is the opposite. Doing what's easy is the path of least resistance, which you are definitely not on. To create and sell your personal thoughts and ideas and creations for a living may seem like a privilege, but it's a difficult one to maintain. It requires a lot of thought, practice, mindfulness, patience, perseverance and self-control to execute consistently, and that's probably the first thing you learn when you begin: it's not a cakewalk. Doing "something you love" doesn't get you out of "having to muster up the energy to DO."
There are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to do something creative, and more about what it takes to do something for a living. Here, all the things you learn, from someone a few years out:
A Job Is A Job, No Matter What You Do
I think the biggest thing that holds people back from really being successful in a creative field is the weird idea that because they're doing something they generally like to do, they will experience a sustained, perpetual state of euphoria, and the opposite tends to be true. Doing what you love requires intense vulnerability. Most of the time, you won't be doing "what you love" — you'll be doing what an editor or the audience wants. Sure, sometimes you'll get to do something for the love of it, but a job is a job, and it's as frustrating and exhausting and boring as any other job is.
If You Wait To Be Inspired, You'll Never Get Anything Done
Part two of the whole "doing what you love = a get out of monotonous misery free pass" is the fact that to do something purely creative for a living is to turn yourself into an idea machine. You cannot wait a week for inspiration to come up on you as you gaze wistfully out a coffee shop window. You have to learn to tap into it yourself. Passion is what makes you decide to do this for your life's work, purpose and commitment is what actually gets it done (not the other way around.)
You Can't Underestimate The Toll Being Publicly Vulnerable Day-In And Day-Out Ultimately Takes
It affects everybody differently, and to varying degrees, but it does affect us all in some way. It's strange and different and decidedly new for human beings to be this digitally exposed, if you will, and it's nothing like we've ever had to really learn to deal with before. Ultimately, you have to learn which parts of your life to keep private and sacred, and which take too much of a toll for you to carry on with.
Not Everybody Will Understand What You Do Or How You Make Money
And by "not everybody" I mean anybody out of your age bracket by five to seven years. Though, it's often hard to tell whether or not they really want to know how jobs work or if it's a condescending dig that really implies: "Right, but how did YOU get that job..."
You Can't Just "Get Someone A Job" In The Arts
It's not like you can hand their resume to your higher up and hope they'll let them do a few articles per month on retainer. It's about "who you know" in any field, but in the arts especially, that only gets you in the door, it doesn't get you behind a desk. What you can do and how well you can do it and how prolifically you can product it does.
You Probably Work Remotely, Which Is A Beast Of A Thing All On Its Own
Working from home was always my dream. Like, so much my dream I couldn't have even conceived that it would have come true. (It did! Yay!) But I really didn't anticipate how much self-control it requires, and how difficult it can be. It all boils down to this: when you're in an office with nothing else to do, you have no choice but to do what you're supposed to be doing. When you're at home, making your own hours, it's easy to keep finding (and prioritizing) something more comfortable over your actual work.
Nobody Cares About What You've Done Or What Your "Credentials" Are
This one is a toughie to swallow, but nobody cares about what you've done as much as they care about what you can do. Sure, credentials do set you up to be taken a bit more seriously, but getting and keeping a job ultimately boils down to how well and how often you perform.
... But They Do Care About Your Name (And Your "Brand")
Your "brand" suddenly becomes A Thing. Your personal social media outlets become professional ones. Your every step is calculable and you have to be conscious of just about everything you do online. Fun, right??
Images: NBC; Giphy(4)