If you see yourself as an everyday creative, there is only one rule to follow. Even if you are not in the arts and design industry.
You have the urge to create something. And you must do so to fulfil that urge. Nothing else matters.
You don’t need to wait for someone to tell you what to do. And you don’t need to have a paying client to be a creative. All you need to do is to make something, in whatever medium you choose. If you can’t build the actual thing, then build a representation of it – a mockup, prototype, or model. Then go around sharing your idea(s) until you can get it off the ground. If your idea doesn’t work, then build something else.
With the recent trend in thinking that careers must always be aligned with our passion comes a downside. It tricks us into thinking that we can only become creative when our job allows us to do creative work. And it makes us feel like failures when we don’t have that one thing that we can be passionate about. Or when we simply don’t know what we are passionate about. So we go on a hunt, trying to find a job that fits the criteria.
The problem is that the job market is not perfect. There is simply not enough demand to support large volumes of people in most creative industries. Some might even question whether the conditions are ripe for creative work.
If you are trying to break into the creative industry, there is simply no incentive for you to be noticed. Not unless you have a stellar portfolio. But that is a chicken-and-egg problem. How can you have a stellar portfolio when you cannot find work to work on? It will likely take time before you can even support yourself from the income you receive from your creative work.
So what alternatives do you have?
Being a perpetual intern at a creative agency is not exactly a viable solution. Waiting for a mentor to give you enough work is not either. Why would he do that? And why should he even?
Maybe you could learn from Albert Einstein, who worked on the thought experiment that eventually led to the theory of relativity while working as a clerk at a patent office. He was not able to land the academic position that he wanted. But he did not give up on his dream just because he did not have a job that allowed him to do the kind of research he wanted.
Instead, Einstein worked at a job that’s completely not related. Instead of demanding that his creative work provide for him financially, he provided for his creative work instead. He would finish his job at the patent office before working on his thought experiment.
Maybe that is what you should do too.
After all, the root word of passion means to suffer. And if creative work is your passion, then why shouldn’t you find the means to provide for your creative work instead of asking it to provide for you?
Jobs are not the only alternative
It might be nice to have a stable job with a decent income that can provide you with the time and money to continue supporting your creative work. But it might not always be possible. Or even feasible.
You might be able to find some freelance opportunities for your creative work. And they might require you to show up during regular office hours. With that requirement, holding down a full-time regular job is just near impossible.
But if you are willing, you will be able to find other solutions to your problem. When I started freelance work after graduating and eventually transitted to teaching music, there was not enough work and students respectively. Especially at the beginning, there was just not enough students at the music school I was teaching at.
But I had been tutoring for a while at that point in time, so it only made sense to me that I stepped up that gig and find more students. It complemented what I was doing then because there was no conflict in the timings. For a period of time, I worked mornings and nights, with the late afternoon off.
This exact combination or solution might not work for you. But what’s more important was that I enjoyed the combination of different work more than being stuck at a single job throughout the entire week.
Instead of finding jobs, maybe you can look for other work instead. You can embrace a slash career. Leverage the skills that you already have in other areas. Find a way to use those skills to meet someone else’s need. When you can meet someone else’s needs or wants, you can get paid.
Then you can use that source of income to provide for your creative work. You could use it to buy materials, pay for lessons or coaching, or even simply buy time to be able to do your creative work.
At the end of the day, remember what is most important: