Creativity – it’s an illness in this house.

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October 6, 2011 by Rhi

Ah, the week I’ve had. After all my hard work setting up opportunities, schmoozing and talking to people, making contacts and generally getting my shit in order, this time last week I was touched by the hand of evil. That may sound melodramatic, but believe me, for an emetophobe like me, catching the sickness bug which has been going round was NOT a pleasant experience. Two whole days in bed, and a slight relapse on Monday night (that’s what running around after small boys does to a girl), and I am DONE IN! I’m tired of being ill, and I’m now trying to get myself set up and ready to get stuck into the Glasgow 48 Hour Film Competition this weekend. Which isn’t easy, as all the house tidying I was supposed to have done by now, is unfinished, and I’m a teensy tiny bit stressed. Fortunately, the first wave of attendees arrive later today, so at least I’ll have some help.

Being sick however, gave me another thing to add to my list entitled “Reasons I’m Glad I Don’t Have Kids”. There’s part of me that rather enjoys having the ability to roll around in bed all day if I need to, or to sit on the sofa with a laptop, and not have to worry about small people impaling themselves on a cat, or whatever.  The only other person in this house is a fully grown adult, with life skills of his own, and so there has been no one to think about but me these last few days. The older I get (and the less hormonal), the more I revel in my child-free existence. It wouldn’t really be so bad to stay like this, to be honest. this enforced lounging has allowed me to be a bit more gentle in my creativity. One of the things about going it alone, I’m fast discovering, is it’s taking an awful lot of running and talking and making the first move. I have to motivate myself to do things. And not creative things. There’s nothing creative at all about filling in grant forms, or working on business plans. But needs must – we need money to live on.

It’s something that I’m not looking forward to about the 48HFP, to be honest. I love being part of the film making process, but the pre-production bumf is as far removed from the romantic notion of “Let’s just DO IT!” that many people have of making a small budget production. Release forms, crew lists, permission forms and logistics take time to organise. It’s a times like this that I envy my husband and his writing credit! Oh to turn up and just write something! Although seeing him tearing his hear out over writing a performance piece for Illicit Ink on Sunday, it’s not all sunshine and roses there either!

He and I had an interesting conversation regarding his writing this week. Talking the other night, we came across the old chestnut that plagues us creatives all the time – when do you become a writer/actor/director? At what point do you cross from the point of being someone who does these things for enjoyment, and officially enter the profession to the extent you can put it down on your car insurance? It’s an issue that his course often touches upon – being as it deals in the no-man’s-land between being a student of creative writing, and being someone who is regularly paid to write. In many ways, from what I have learned, writing is as much of a state of mind as a profession. You have to actually be a writer before you can earn money from it – it’s a discipline. Did JK Rowling only become a writer when Harry Potter was published? Or was she already a writer when she was sitting in that cafe in Edinburgh, day after day, putting the words on paper? My own inclination leads me to say the latter. But then, as a creative person, you learn that the idea of putting labels on what people do and what they are, is a little more difficult that someone who can confidently answer “I’m a Doctor” when the question of jobs is raised at a dinner party. But I think the one thing you’ll find that anyone who is creative has in common, is that it’s not something they do because they want to, or because they decided it would be a good career choice. They do it because they HAVE to. They know no other way. One of the first conversations I had with my husband was about writing, and we both talked about how it’s something we’ve both always done. Even when I was really small, I was writing stories and poems and “books” for people. And I was forever putting on plays and performances. Most children go through this phase in their lives. But for a select few of us… well… we don’t ever really have the inclination to stop.


I was an actor for two summers. An actual actor who was paid to perform. But I don’t feel like an actor now. I’ve done performances, but it’s not what I want to be. But in “professional” terms, do I still have the right to call myself that? I think something which a lot of people in the Creative Industries struggle with is that it’s almost impossible to be just one thing. Anyone who works in community theatre, for example, will probably have experience of writing, directing, devising, and performing. There’s no neat job title to define what it is you do for a living. Even when you consider artists, which some people would think is easily defined as someone who paints or draws for a living, you are faced with a constantly changing landscape of talent. An exhibition now can often involve film makers, musicians, performers – I’ve created performance art in public areas in the past. Can I define myself as an artist, when the skills I was using were the same ones I used when I directed Hamlet?

The term “Creative Industries” is often derided for it’s wishy-washy nature, but I appreciate the wide ranging scope of the ideas that the title encapsulates. Take my degree, for example. The official title is Creative Studies. That, for me, included English Literature, Journalism, Theatre, Radio and Film Production and creative writing, as well as the theory of film and television. I can honestly say that in almost every single creative project I’ve been involved in, I have used elements from all of those during the production process.

All this thought and discussion has been extremely useful for me in pinpointing what it is that I should do next. Of course, I need to focus on a specific direction. But it doesn’t rule out doing other things – and concentrating on one area now, doesn’t mean I have to forgo all other opportunities should they present themselves. I believe the term used in other circles is “Portfolio Career”. It sounds brilliantly pretentious – but how much happier would you be, faced with the chance to earn your living from more than just one area? If you could be a teacher two days a week, and drive racing cars on the weekends?

For a while, I felt I’d made a massive mistake in starting down this path. I thought that there must be some way to sit on being creative – I thought that I could concentrate on being creative as a hobby, something to do in my spare time whilst doing a “proper” job the rest of the week. But now… now I’m beginning to realise how fortunate I am. There’s not many people who can do what I can do. I’ve realised that the way to have the job I want to have, is to make the job I want to have a reality. I have to think it into existence. Not wait for someone else to tell me I am what I want to be. And again, we’re back to reason #798 why I’m glad I don’t have kids to worry about. The idea of taking this massive step off a cliff, into the unknown, and winging it on my own skills and nothing else, is more than a little terrifying. If putting clothes on the back of little people was concerned, I don’t think I’d even contemplate it.

But here’s the biggest problem people have with creative types. We’re seen as pretentious. Saying you write, or you direct, or you act, to the exclusion of other jobs or pursuits, is considered big-headed. Well, I’m sorry. God gave me this brain, and he gave me these talents, and there’s not much I can do to argue about it. I could focus on getting a job that involved sitting in an office all day. But *whispers* I don’t want to. I’m incredibly lucky, not only to be creative, but to have had the chances in my life to skill myself in order to actually DO something with it. And so…. *sigh* And so. If I can make money out of doing what I love, whilst I’m in a position where making money is a small consideration, then I am abso-bloody-lutely going to go for it. The morning when you wake up – and there is a morning like this. There has to be. You can’t wait for someone else to make these things happen for you – the morning when you wake up and say “Today, I am a writer/artist/whatever. Today I will sit down, and I will create something and send it off into the world, and see what they make of it…” is a wonderful WONDERFUL day. Whether someone pays me or not, I am whatever I want to be, and I can do whatever I want to do. Perhaps that’s why people are suspicious of us? Perhaps the freedom that creativity brings, makes people uncomfortable – or dare I say jealous? Believing in yourself and what you can do isn’t big headed. It’s liberating. It’s how we all should be, in a perfect world.

So here’s to the Creative Types. To Jim at SpektiFilms, setting off on his own to do it his way. Here’s to Britta, and her beautiful creations. Here’s to Rebecca, taking beautiful pictures of beautiful moments. Here’s to Tim, working hard to create a learning environment that’s educational AND inspiring. Here’s to Giles, setting off in a few hours to preside over his sixth 48 Hour Film. And here’s to my wonderful husband, who came to me through a love of performing, and who is making his own creative journey to where he wants to be. Every single one of you inspire me, and make me want to be everything I can be. Every single sacrifice is worth it for the moment when we step back, when it’s all over and finished, and say “I made that!”

Here’s to creativity! GO MAKE SOMETHING!


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