Three helpful ideas for new creators…

  • Young Creative Award winners - 2019
  • Young Creative Class of 2019

Have been reflecting quite a bit about my own work and how I’ve managed to make my way seeing as I’ve had an invitation at a local college to speak at a careers open day about my experiences as a creative and photographer. I also got to see last week the latest young creative talents Nottingham have to offer in the city’s Young Creative Awards presented at Nottingham Playhouse , as a previous winner in 2012 for my photography.

When I was doing this three ideas in particular stuck to me in my notebook which I’ll be able to expand upon in this blog in terms of advice which I’d give to those beginning their creative journey as a photographer , artist , illustrator , etc based on my own experiences and journey thus far.

Action begets inspiration – why wait?

It’s often the case that seeing someone else’s work in a location can spur you on to create your own piece in response to what they’ve done , building upon their ideas with your own twist. But it’s also just as equally true that when starting with a blank canvas , the very act of starting to create can inspire you to dig deeper , a positive feedback loop which can turn out to be very useful. Mark Manson talks about this effect and more in a piece on overcoming procrastination.

As a photographer it sometimes will be a while when I’m out making images before I’m satisfied , but you need to get stuck in . My first images are very rarely what I’ll end up using in the end , but just the act of looking at things down a viewfinder can trigger the creative side of my mind. It’s a very useful hack particularly in situations where there’s nothing immediately obvious to respond to – and when I’d need to get a result as a photographer..

On a side note this is also why perfectionism can be so suffocating – needing things to be exactly correct and the anxieties this brings before making can stop you in your tracks. Often in the field I can miss an exposure or focus as I’d have liked at the time , then go back to my editing to find the file can be recovered later , surprising myself along the way. Good enough is often good enough , more so then you can realise.

#NotAHobby

This hashtag is borrowed from a recent campaign by the Association of Illustrators to highlight the need for business development and professional skills in order to have the opportunity to sustain a career in illustration. The same applies with photography , painting , or any other creative endeavour.

For quite a few years one of the main motivators for my work as a photographer was to be cathartic release and the rewards that brought as someone quite curious about how things were and to see how big the world was and what was possible , happy to share my results with the world through online and social media outlets – and I quite enjoyed (and still do from time to time) being able to succeed purely on my own terms as a hobbyist.

However , I ended up frustrated for a long time as I didn’t get the kind of interest and opportunities I’d imagined I’d get at first , not to mention earnings and got into a rut as a result trying to make this work out for a few years after I graduated from university , while working part time. This affected my well being mentally as well as my motivation.It’s not until working with the Princes Trust who gave me a long term business mentor , who challenged a lot of the thinking and beliefs that I developed and got me out of the rut I’d found myself in.

Two main takeaway were the need to understand my work better in terms of the value it creates for others – and that there were probably more useful ways I could showcase this , mainly through networking and meeting potential vendors , clients or supporters and introducing myself.

Even more importantly was the need to find the courage to make the first move and move often when it comes to speaking to potential clients and vendors – who might not know about my work and my results beforehand. Alex Mathers of Red Lemon Club has shared a recent blog on the need to go “beyond the canvas” in your creativity to be able to market it , rather then rely on sheer talent and skill. When talent doesn’t work hard…

Build your tribe

As someone fairly introverted in the main , and on the autism spectrum this kind of thing is pretty close to being the polar opposite of what would ideally suit me – and because of this on occasion does provoke a lot of anxiety if I’m honest , but this is how the world works and I needed to find a way with this…

A few things which help : it’s a case of doing things gradually – and better to move slowly in the right direction , then quickly in the wrong way . Also , it’s a case of reaching the right people – rather than reaching everyone at once – 50 people is a good starting point for contacts. And , if you do a good job with them , they can always recommend you to others as well. It’s a case of getting people to know , like and trust , and this will take time. But I offer this useful story.

I’ll finish up with a story to explain . Back in 2012 , when I was still an undergraduate student about to finish up my Maths and Physics degree – a set of photographs I’d made were recognised by Nottingham City Council’s Young Creative Awards. At the time I didn’t realise but I would go on to make a couple of useful contacts . One of which representing an architectural practice ,one of the sponsors of the event. As it happens has turned out to be very useful recently as I develop my practice with the built environment and architecture – Funnily enough I didn’t speak directly to them for over six years until last summer when I’d met at a networking event for architects and designers!

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