I feel like I’ve been party to conversations around the struggles of chasing creative work a lot lately. This isn’t an entirely uncommon conversation when a group of people at various points in their creative journey hang out. And the people starting the conversation are at different stages in their career. Some are experienced, but not where they want to be (sometimes not getting anywhere). Others are new to the field, trying to figure out how to break in or at the very least determine what steps they can start taking to get into the game. At some point, all of us who do creative work find ourselves in this waiting space.
Something I’ve noticed in these conversations, and just in watching fellow creative types in general, is that people facing downtime tend to react in one of two ways: They either work on their craft and find ways to get themselves and their work out into the community (where they may or may not get noticed as much as they’d like), or they sit quietly and wonder why no one notices them and the work they’ve done. The thing is, it’s what you do when you have that down time that shapes how your career moves forward.
Those who spend their downtime working on their craft have it a bit easier. They’re taking action, they’re doing the legwork, and they’re finding (or making) opportunities. They’re doing a lot of things right. They may still be gathering rejection notes or making connections that don’t work out the way they hoped, but they’re getting their name and their work in front of people, which puts a possible light at the end of the downtime tunnel.
Some downtime advice for the experienced or the driven who aren’t as successful as they’d like to be (according to their own definition of success):
- Take a class. This might be nothing more than putting together your own set of resources if your funds are tight, but do it. Work on a skill that’s been frustrating you. Maybe learn a new technique to increase your versatility, or pick up a complementary skill and see what doors that opens for you. You really never know what’s going to click until you try. (Classes are also a great way to meet others in your field and make connections.)
- Create your own projects. Regardless of your medium, you can probably develop and create your own projects. If you’re a visual artist, set up a profile on one of the creative repositories and create for that profile. If you’re a writer, same thing. If you’re an actor or a video producer, same thing. It’s much easier to prove your skills when you can point to something and say, “Look at this thing I made with my own skills.” Developing your own projects while searching for other work also shows just how dedicated you are to your craft.
- Start working on the next project. While you’re auditioning, interviewing, submitting, pitching, always keep a personal project in development. It helps you stay in practice, keeps you focused on what you’re ultimately trying to accomplish, and creates a body of work that demonstrates your passion and your skills. You might even create something that you can sell (or sell access to).
- Experiment and innovate. If you’ve been marketing your completed projects for some time without success (or with minimal success), find new, creative uses for your product or find ways to extend it with those new complementary skills you’ve been developing.
- Meet people in your field and related fields. We live in a pretty exciting time where we can, with nothing more than a connected piece of technology and a basic understanding of how to search for things, find and connect with other people pretty easily. Power up your favorite search engine and search for your skill set. Go to your favorite social media platform and search for your skill set. There are very few creative industries that don’t have places where their practitioners can gather, and many of these groups are often newbie-friendly. Just remember your manners. If you’re introverted (like me), start small. Find one or two people to connect with and grow from there.
If you really enjoy what you’re doing, there are ways to find your path. But it’s up to you to take charge and shape that path.
Nest time, we’ll talk about those who are claim to be thirsty but are more inclined to sit and wait for rain.