Other Ways to Create

By Olivia Ustariz

Listen to the accompanying podcast episode on Spotify or Apple Podcasts!

Growing up, I never had any real inclinations to pursue a creative career. From the age of about 8, and throughout my high school studies, I told people that I was going to be a veterinarian, even though this prospect didn’t particularly excite me. In hindsight, it was a narrative I spun repeatedly to avoid contemplating the possibility that the way I had been living my life had been in pursuit of the wrong goal. But I digress. 

It was only when I had to write a film review for one of my introductory university courses, and I was subsequently invited to write for a student run screen media website, that the penny dropped: I loved writing. I loved how happy I felt when I managed to curate a sentence that fell off the tongue and articulated my thoughts effortlessly. It is an elusive high, which only serves to heighten its allure. 

Despite this penny drop moment, the journey to materialising my creative aspirations has not been easy.  Though I am certain of my love for writing, I spend an exorbitant amount of time trying to convince myself that pursuing a creative career will not make me happy. In the spirit of full transparency, I value financial security and words of affirmation, both of which are not guaranteed when you are being paid to produce broadly entertaining content. That is to say, I can’t shift the blame for my apparent ‘writing boycott’ onto the usual suspects like parental disapproval or the difficulty of cracking into the industry (how would I know this when I have never given it a go?) – I am just too afraid to take the leap. 

The result? I don’t write very much anymore, and it sucks. Publishing my film reviews filled me with joy, and I wasn’t receiving many affirmations let alone monetary compensation. In fact, if you clicked onto any of my film reviews, you would likely still have the option of being the first to like it. Just sending my thoughts out to the world made me feel like all my tedious shifts at Woolworths, my stilted small talk with university peers, and my ill fated online dating attempts had value (because, invariably, I would review movies through the lens of any concurrent personal dramas). 

So this New Year’s Eve, sick of lamenting my misplaced love for writing while wishing that I could do it professionally, I decided to focus on the reasons why I should write. This exercise morphed into a more general contemplation on the reasons why aspiring creatives should create for the sake of it, two of which I have described below. I hope these reasons help you appreciate the value of creating for creation’s sake, just like they have for me:  

Because we need to make meaning in life, somehow. 

This reason came to me while watching David Lowery’s supernatural drama film A Ghost Story (2017). Essentially, this film contemplates the legacies we leave behind as we strive to make meaning from life. One scene made me reconsider how lasting legacies are for even the most noteworthy of individuals. 

In this scene, a somewhat inebriated party goer queries why creatives create when, even if we do create something ground breaking and our name is subsequently preserved in the collective consciousness, the sun will eventually explode and destroy our world and all the legacies within it. So, even the most famous of Picasso paintings, and Picasso himself, will eventually mean nothing. 

I think it is a fair assumption that every aspiring creative has dreamed of leaving behind a legacy. I certainly have, and I sometimes still do. This scene from A Ghost Story made me realise the folly of creating for the purpose of achieving renown – it is difficult to get started on an editorial piece when you are depending on it to make you famous. I realised that you can only make meaning from life by living it, and if writing editorial pieces that may not get published is what gives your life meaning, then go for it. Henry Cavill, one of the most commercially successful actors of our generation, plays Warhammer, a miniature wargame that is apparently the most popular of its kind in the world (according to Wikipedia). Cavill has probably done enough acting work to cement himself in the collective consciousness, so why does he play Warhammer? Because it gives him something that no legacy can: meaning.

Because you might just be good enough. 

Here is a crazy thought, maybe if you actually keep creating, you’ll become happier, you’ll gain more confidence, you’ll put your hand up for increasingly sizeable commissions (in whatever form they may come), you’ll make some dope professional connections, you’ll produce enough content to collate a portfolio, and you’ll start to apply for professional roles in your preferred creative practice. Only recently did I realise that being paid to write does not look a particular way. We can’t all be Carrie Bradshaw and get paid a New York wage to write a single 200 word column each week. 

Though I was chuffed to receive even 1 like on my film reviews, every now and again I would daydream that a massively successful pop culture editor would stumble upon my writing, recognise my unique talent, and whisk me away to a full time editorial role. And the fact that that day dream never came to fruition did have a hand in my increasingly sporadic publishing schedule. 

I refused to believe that I would need to change my writing preferences to become noticed. I would scoff at fellow creatives who had taken jobs in marketing and public relations, reasoning that they had sold their creative integrity for the sake of a full time salary….in writing. This New Years Eve, after coming to terms with the fact that my daydream will probably never be realised, I decided to volunteer as the Social Media Officer for a not for profit sporting club. And though I’ve only been doing it for a couple weeks, I love the role so far. It’s still writing, I am still receiving stimulus material that I have to mould and shape into pleasing content. I always thought my writing had to be about film for me to enjoy it, but I think it’s the challenge of moulding and shaping that makes me happy. And because I am feeling happier, I am looking for more ways to diversify my writing skills. I am not saying it will lead to a job, but it is certainly more helpful then just sitting around waiting to be ‘discovered’. I am also not saying that you have to sacrifice your current creative pursuits in favour of more ‘commercially viable’ projects if this won’t make you happy. I am just saying, maybe you need a few more years of developing your confidence before realising your creative dream, rather than writing off the entire pursuit before you even get started. 

Remember, you can only make meaning from life by living it. And if you continue to talk yourself out of creating, you’ll just be talking yourself out of living meaningfully. 

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