The Challenge of a Creative Lifestyle

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Confidence and the Creative Lifestyle

It can be hard to stay confident when a creative career is widely perceived as a risky choice. Here’s five pieces of advice for creative freelancers.

It is important to stay positive in the face of other people's concern about your choice of career.

"Why don't you get a proper job?"

"Isn't that really just a hobby?"

"How will you ever earn a decent living doing that?"

Heartbreaking, isn't it? Especially when these questions come from your own friends or family, or even your partner. But it's one of the most prominent themes I deal with within my mentoring sessions.

See the next section for advice on handling critical voices.

Be confident enough to stick your head above the parapet. 

I meet a lot of creative people whose confidence has been battered by folk who simply don't seem to understand that a creative life is a valid career choice.

Criticism like this doesn’t do a lot for your confidence or self-esteem. However, it’s a given if you choose the creative life, so you need to develop strategies for shaking it off.

You need a balance of polite assertiveness, logic, and an understanding of what drives your critics.

1. Take pride in your career choice

Working for yourself is a valid choice. You have every right to choose to earn your living, at whatever scale you want to operate, in the way you want to.

It may not be what your parents or partner envisioned. It may not earn you a fortune. But it's a valid, worthwhile, life-affirming choice. 

So how do you convince the sceptics around you that you are doing the right thing with your life? In truth, you shouldn't have to. 

2. Remember creativity improves the world

For many people like you, their work is not just a job. It's a vocation.

Most of the truly creative people I know would continue to be do what they do even if there was no money left in the world.

Creativity existed before money did, and creativity was born out of necessity. It's an instinct.

 Everything we use, watch, listen to and live in has had the touch of an artist. 

Without imagination and creativity we could not survive. We wouldn't have the skills and tools we need to keep ourselves alive.

I once shocked an arts officer by saying that creative people were like cockroaches.

What I meant was this: even if a bomb were to drop, if all systems were disrupted, and all communications severed, creative people would emerge and rebuild with whatever they could find. 

Cockroaches are renowned for their ability to survive extreme events. Creative people would survive in the same way, and they would rebuild something awesome.

3. Remember the results of creativity are everywhere

People need to be reminded that everything they pick up and use, sit on, watch, listen to, read, purchase, travel in or on, live in, cook and eat with has had the touch of an artist, writer, designer, engineer or architect along the way.

Many freelancers live non-conventional lives. Many have struggled or failed at points in their career.

But we have what we have because someone else did what they had to do, often in the face of extreme doubt and criticism.

4. Empathise with your critics

You don't have to take the criticisms above. You don't have to justify what you do.

 Be proud. Be yourself. Live the creative life. Take risks. 

You do, however, need to understand where your critics are coming from. Parents and partners worry about your security, and will simply be trying to protect you in the only way they know how.

Empathise with their fears, because that's often what drives the nagging. Understand where they are coming from by any means you can.

They may be fearful of their own creativity, or be grieving the lack of it. Sometimes it's best not to know. 

5. Celebrate your creativity

Be proud. Be yourself. You are entitled to these things. Live the creative life. Take risks.

If you have the talent and the tenacity to make a living from your creative output, you must celebrate that fact.

Make sure people know you are there. Be confident enough to stick your head above the parapet. Craft your story and share it wherever and whenever you can.

We'd be living much poorer lives in a much poorer society if it weren’t for people like you. Quote me if you like.