Client A had worked long and hard trying to build a creative career. While she’d seen some success, in recent years things had waned, and she’d spent a lot of time producing work that didn’t sell. Her days were structured around giving a few hours of morning prime time to this creative endeavour, but this meant her working days were long: there were bills to pay, after all.
Although she had great support from her partner, the effort required to follow her creative impulse as well as work full-time, raise a family and keep a house was draining. The lack of results was frustrating. This was affecting other areas of her life – including relationships with the people most important to her. While she was prepared to make sacrifices to develop her career, this meant other people had to make sacrifices too.
She told me about a time when she didn’t go on a family day out because of a deadline. Fair enough, perhaps. But this was a spec piece of work, and the deadline self-imposed. In the end the piece didn’t sell, so the family day out was missed for no reason. There would be other days out, but this demonstrated how her desire for “success” was having a wider impact.
Metaphors that arose in our discussions were that trying to “break into” this particular creative field was “like banging your head against a brick wall”. She agreed with my observation that these are words of violence and force, and that generally in life, forcing anything is a bad idea. It’s certainly not an ideal ingredient in any creative endeavour.
Through our discussions we identified that money was at the root of the issue. She felt that if she wasn’t paid for her creative work then it had no value. Only cold hard cash could justify the time spent. And not only would getting paid allow her to spend more time being creative, she also felt that only through financial reward would her pursuits be recognised by others. This influenced her output as she tried to produce work that had the greatest chance of selling, even if this meant compromising her vision. Perhaps without his realising, this further contributed to his frustration.
Always remember that the reason you initially started working was that there was something inside yourself that you felt, if you could manifest it in some way, you would understand more about yourself and how you co-exist with the rest of society.
– David Bowie
Through our sessions, and exploration of her thoughts and feelings through personal writing, she came to recognise that the “success” she sought was something of a vaporous notion, and that, however much she achieved, there would always be a desire for more. She determined that at least part of the answer lay in removing money from the equation. As she was earning very little from her work anyway this had minimal impact on her income, but meant there was no forced agenda, no self-inflicted pressure to achieve the financial success she felt would validate her work – both to herself and in the eyes of others.
As a result, she felt able to take time away from her creative work, and give her mind time to relax – itself an important part of the creative process. She spent more time absorbing other creative inputs: reading, watching films and TV, listening to music. She spent more time cooking and gardening, which in themselves offered new opportunities for creative expression. This all began to feed into her own creativity, and while in terms of raw output some might argue that she was less productive, the material she did produce was more honest, of greater depth, and ultimately more satisfying.
I’m a novelist and scriptwriter, Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow and Advisory Fellow, workshop lead and creative coach. Click here to get the lowdown on updates, insight into projects, and a look behind the scenes on creative stuff. You can also follow TFW on Twitter, or like the Facebook page.