How to pursue a creative career

How to pursue a creative career

For many pursuing a creative career in their chosen craft is no more than a distant dream. Elena Iacovou chats with three women who have found fulfillment in pursuing their passions and are encouraging others to do the same.

Not long ago, 35-year-old Melbournian Jane Fenn was stretching herself to her limits; holding down a nine-to-five job as a financial power of attorney and raising a one- and a two-year-old. “I felt I had reached a point where I could no longer do it all,” reflects Fenn. “My job did not fit in with my family and my health was suffering. That’s when my husband suggested that I needed to do something just for myself, so for my 32nd birthday he gave me silversmith classes as a gift.”

Despite growing up in a home surrounded by creative people, Fenn never considered creativity as a career path. “At school, my favourite subject was art, but after completing my studies and travelling, I felt the need to have a ‘serious career’, so I spent the next 10 years wearing a suit in an office,” she says.

While working full time and completing a silversmith course at Melbourne Polytechnic, Fenn began to consider her career options. “When I started studying, I suddenly saw that there was another option,” she says. “It made me think a bit more creatively…[that] maybe I could do jewellery design, which I really enjoy.” While on maternity leave with her third child, Fenn launched her jewellery label, White Lightly (whitelightly.com), and she has never looked back.

Now that she’s running her own business, Fenn enjoys a happier and healthier life with greater flexibility. “Now I realise there’s so much more value in doing something I’m really passionate about while also being available for the people I love,” she says.

Finding that creative balance

While for Fenn being creative means she is now able to seamlessly coalesce domestic life with a creative career, for others, these two jobs can be in direct conflict.

“Transitioning into motherhood can force us to assess what we really want for ourselves and our families,” says Rachel Power, artist and author of Motherhood & Creativity.  “If that finds expression in creativity, then it’s not something that can be discarded or put to the bottom of the pile because there are easier ways to make a living, or yet another load of washing to put on. Mothers have to stake a claim to their right for a meaningful life because it’s central to their own wellbeing, and subsequently for their whole family.

“Before I had my first baby, I thought my creative life would continue after becoming a parent without missing a beat,” says Power. “Nothing prepared me for the all-consuming nature of mothering, and how challenging I would find it to combine it with my art,” she says. “I think this happens because mothers still feel the societal – and personal – pressure to take on that archetypal role of self-sacrificial nurturer, at the expense of their own needs and desires. And art can feel somewhat ephemeral and self-indulgent amid the very real and pressing needs of raising a family.”

Taking on that traditional motherly role, Sydney-based Katherine Pisto, 45, gave up her creative career as a fashion designer and quickly found herself moving to the countryside to raise her four children. It’s a decision she doesn’t regret, but it’s one that left her with a sense that something was missing from her life. “As soon as my children left the nest, I re-educated myself in fashion design through Open Colleges, to boost my confidence, and six months after graduation I found myself working as a production assistant to the head designer for a bridal studio,” says Pisto.

“It’s extremely satisfying to express myself creatively again and [it’s] very rewarding to be able to put my fashion skills back into use. Stepping into a space where I can just forget about everything else and simply focus on enjoying myself is very liberating.” 

“It’s not uncommon that at some point life becomes unbearable or feels so wrong without being creative that it becomes impossible to disregard the inkling any longer, and getting older reminds us that life is finite, which shakes us up and moves us closer into action,” says Naomi Morrow, a life and creativity coach (naomimorrow.com). “Because creativity is such a soulful expression, it also becomes urgent that we express our deepest self, as this has the potential of making us more emotionally resilient and provides us with a longer-lasting sense of contentment.”

“It’s extremely satisfying to express myself creatively again and [it’s] very rewarding to be able to put my fashion skills back into use.”

Work, money and false beliefs

It’s a popular belief that a job in a creative industry is not considered a ‘real job’, and at the same time, there’s a lot of fear surrounding leaving a secure, well-paying job and risk failing. 

Adelaide-based Rebekah Popescu, 42, was influenced by these cultural beliefs, so she stayed in a job as a digital media producer for 16 years. “Even though I felt I had been born with an artistic ability and had attended the information session on art therapy at IKON, it still took me a few years to begin the course, because I was always finding excuses to stay in a job I knew well for stability and financial reliability,” says Popescu, who now runs Adelaide Art Therapy.

“But when the company I was working for went into liquidation, that’s when I knew I had to stop ignoring my creative call, and two years later I made it happen; I became an art therapist. Now that I’m doing what I love, I feel more in harmony with life and it’s also very rewarding to share my creativity in a way that helps others heal and find their voice. The transition to a creative career has enabled me to live the life I was always meant to live rather than living a stressful life in a job that I didn’t want to be doing.”

As for the financial rewards, Popescu says that if you are truly creative and know a few things about marketing yourself and establishing networks, then you are always going to have work.

Life coach Elissa Freeman agrees that while it may not be easy to make a living from art, it’s not impossible. It just requires a different mindset, which involves thoughts of valuing our creative talents and ourselves. “For most of us, the resistance to go after a creative career comes from the fact that [because] creativity comes so easy to us, we don’t believe we can make a living from it,” says Freeman. “And when we do decide to pursue it, it’s primarily because of happiness. We realise that when we are being creative, it’s when we feel the most connected to ourselves, the most at peace, and having the most fun, which also includes being financially rewarded for it.”

So, should you begin considering your options for a creative career? While making a creative career transition may seem scary at first, with no set road map to follow, as it seems, creativity plays a powerful role in making life consequential and is necessary for feelings like self-satisfaction and wholeness. If being creative will increase your levels of personal gratification, then that’s probably the only guide you need to follow in order to succeed in pursuing your creative dreams.

This article was originally published in Australian Natural Health magazine.

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