Telling ourselves that a creative life is a realistic one for us to aspire to, can be harder than we think. Many messages about settling down, being ‘responsible’, being ‘successful’, in my case being a man, still ring through my head, when I’m otherwise thinking about the next creative project, and I’m sure I’m not alone.
I find I have the drive to be creative for a living, be that music, writing, acting, public speaking etc but I also sometimes have a reluctance to fully commit to this life. People often tell you that acting, for example, is a very competitive arena and you should be prepared for rejection/failure. Well for starters those are subjective terms, and secondly it builds to the idea I’m coming to. You will definitely ‘fail’ if you don’t fully commit. A creative life is like diving into a swimming pool. Anything less than a fully committed dive looks fucking ridiculous. You can’t belly flop off a 10m board and immediately afterwards still claim to be a diver. No, do it again fully committed or shut up. We can all see how red your belly is. This is the reality of attempting to be creative in life.
So where did my reluctance to commit fully to what I obviously love doing come from? It sounds so counter intuitive you’d think it would be easily solvable. Well somewhere in my upbringing my creativity got filed under “immature” or not serious. I wasn’t allowed to choose Art and Music at A-Level for example. There was no drama department either or I would have probably wanted to do all three for my subjects. Whilst I see the logic behind teachers looking past the individual in favour of the generic group interest (and more truthfully exam results standings) it’s coming to something when you are taught a life lesson in the process of not pursuing your creativity in favour of more ‘serious’ choices. In other words how does it benefit the creative individual to be forced to choose “serious’ subjects over soft ‘hobbies’ when a message about taking CREATIVITY, SERIOUSLY…could be a really positive one for our next budding artists, film makers, poets, actors to hear.
As with many aspects of my life at my current age of 36 (just), I am teaching myself many of the lessons I feel I need now. In this regard its possible for our currents not to turn array, nor lose the name of action, (that’s from Shakespeare) and indeed reading, writing, acting, partaking in the pursuit of anything creative, does breed and inspire more creativity.
I seem, in the mean time to have reached an age far enough away from my 18 year old self, where I can conceivably imagine going back and telling myself what I wish I knew then. The only problem with this idea is I don’t generally give advice (nobody actually wants to hear an opinion on how they should live their lives unless it backs up what they already think) so even that imaginary conversation would be quite a short one.
The only thing I would say to my younger self is you should know you can take a creative life seriously. Just as seriously in fact as being an accountant or a lawyer, or…high court Judge. Congratulations if you are any of these things by the way, they are the serious jobs that immediately popped into my head when I needed serious examples. You are the proper grown ups of this world. Doctor!!! That’s a very serious job. Saving lives, helping people. Loving your work!
You see what happened don’t you… In the course of writing this, my brain has subtly undermined it’s search for creative fulfilment by listing more important jobs. So here’s what I’d tell myself at 18. There is nothing wrong with a belly flop (apart from the pain) if that’s what you’re happy with. Perhaps your crowning glory that you can work up to will be a monumental bomb into an outside pool in Benidorm one day…what ever floats your boat. But if you want more from your life than your upbringing, family, friends, community lets you think is realistic, you shouldn’t apologise for that. You shouldn’t think you have to compartmentalise, fun, and work, vocation and play. You should decide to commit fully to a creative life. And that first decision, that first step in taking action, like most creative projects is the hardest part. After that something will build and seeing where you end up becomes the creative life itself. At least that’s what all the creative people I know say.
I think, the reality is it is hard to make what you love your work. Where do you go for solace after a bad day? What is your escapism? So I’m not romanticising the challenge. I just think ultimately its reassuring to hear the message that creativity is a viable option. And some people really do make it work, so why shouldn’t you be one of those people? And at the very least if your life does’nt work out and you completely fuck it up…you can just write a book about it.
On that note; a huge creative fuck up of life awaits. And good luck to you too!!!!!