How to Find Creative Work – Free Ebook

For many of us, our strongest and at the same
time vaguest desire is to be more creative.

And when we think about what it would mean
to be creative, we arrive at a dauntingly

fixed range of jobs. We might be visually
creative: and so identify that we want to

be a painter, photographer, film-maker, designer
or architect. We might be intellectually creative:

and so want to be a novelist, journalist or
academic. We might be musically creative:

and so want to start a band. Or we might be
sensorily creative: and so want to start a

restaurant. The problem is that securing any
of these jobs is – statistically speaking

– almost impossible. We end up blocked,
sure of what we want to be, yet also unable

to break into our chosen field. We end up
with what we call a fixation – rather than

simply an interest – to signal the mixture
of inner certainty and outer impossibility.

The solution to such fixations lies in coming
to understand more closely what we are really

creatively interested in because the more
accurately and precisely we fathom what we

truly care about, the more we stand to discover
that our creative interests and their associated

pleasure-points actually exist in a far broader
range of occupations than we have until now

been used to entertaining. It is a certain
lack of understanding of what we are really

after – and therefore a relatively standard
and obvious reading of the job market – that

pushes us into a far narrower tunnel of options
than is warranted. When we properly grasp

what draws us to one creative job, we stand
to identify qualities that are available in

other kinds of employment as well. What we
really love isn’t this specific job, but

a range of themes we have first located there,
normally because this job was the most conspicuous

example of a repository of them – which
is where the problem started because over-conspicuous

jobs tend to attract too much attention, get
over-subscribed and are then in a position

to offer only very modest salaries. Yet, in
reality, the qualities can’t only exist

there. They are necessarily generic and will
be available under other, less obvious guise

– once we know how to look. Imagine the
person who has become heavily invested in

the idea of becoming a journalist. The very
word ‘journalist’ has become a coveted

badge that captures everything they feel they
want. From a young age, the job suggested

glamour and stimulation, excitement and dynamism.
They got used to parents and uncles and aunts

referring to them as future journalists. However,
the sector now happens to be in terminal decline

and pitiably over-subscribed. A block and
angst results. The recommended move is to

pause the fruitless job search and unpaid
internships and ask oneself what might truly

be appealing in one’s intuitive excitement
around journalism. What are the pleasures

one is really seeking here – and might they
exist somewhere else, and somewhere more favourable,

in the world of work? We’re prone to a very
natural vagueness here. We often just like

the broad sound of a given job. But if we
pursue the pleasure-point analysis, we start

to prise off the lid and look more assiduously
at the pleasures on offer. Once scrutinised,

we might find that journalism offers some
of the following pleasures: an ability to

engage with serious political and sociological
issues, to analyse policy, to write up thoughts

with elegance and to be respected for one’s
critical powers. Once such elements are clarified,

it becomes clear that they cannot be uniquely
connected to the sector we call journalism.

The combination can’t only exist – and
isn’t only needed – in newspapers and

magazines. It’s not really tied to any particular
sector. The qualities can, and do, turn up

in a lot of other places. For instance, a
financial investment firm might have a huge

need to analyse emerging markets and explain
their potential and their possible weaknesses

to clients; a university might need to analyse
and understand changes in its competitive

environment and explain these in clear and
compelling ways to its staff; an oil company

might need to analyse its future likely employment
needs and convey this to its recruitment teams

around the world. These industries don’t
sit under the heading of journalism – but

they all have needs and opportunities which
in fact offer exactly the same pleasures which

were initially and rather superficially associated
with journalism. Investigation reveals that

the pleasures we are seeking are more mobile
than initially supposed. They don’t have

to be pursued only in the world of the media,
they may be more accessible, more secure and

more financially rewarding when pursued in
quite different sectors of the economy. This

is not an exercise in getting us to give up
on what we really want. The liberating move

is to see that what we want exists in places
beyond those we had identified. The same analysis

could be run around teaching. This doesn’t
– it turns out – have to be done in a

primary or high school; one might be in essence
a teacher in an aeronautics conglomerate (you

have to teach new recruits about the nature
of the industry) or a wealth management firm

(you have to teach executives about how to
deal with difficult clients). Or, someone

who was fixated on politics might realise
that the pleasures they seek (influencing

societal outcomes) are as much available (and
better rewarded and more consequential) in

a job with the the tourist board or an oil
exploration company. This can look like a

climbdown only if we don’t understand well-enough
what we are actually looking for. The surprising,

liberating side of a creative pleasure-point
analysis is that it reveals that it can never

be a particular industry sector that is the
key to finding a job we can love. Because

when properly understood a creative pleasure
is – thankfully – generic and can, therefore,

truly turn up in many different and initially
unexpected places. Careful knowledge of what

we love sets us free to love

more widely.

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