|This image by Ricky Cohete. All others by John Hanson.|
A few years ago I was "let go" from a pretty good job. It was one of those jobs that kept my bills payed and allowed me to express reasonable amounts of creativity. Those factors coupled with the amazing-ness of my co-workers, created a scenario of loyalty. I would never have voluntarily left that position... but it turns out that was exactly what I needed.
With my job eliminated I fell back on styling, free-lance work, writing, and a few residencies to paint for churches. With all sorts of free time, I started posting more regularly, and Culture Keeper exploded. From there I down-sized... I (un-vouluntarily) got rid of my favorite apartment, and my car. With no home I was forced to be super-mobile (for the sake of hospitality as well as sanity). This brought me more free-lance work, and opened up even more travel possibilities.
It is a cycle. For now I have had to give up stability and permanence, for the sake of expansion and possibility. I have to remind myself of that every time I feel the need to get a "real" job. What has opened up to me is a beautiful life of work and play and creativity and travel. This life is difficult, because it does not pay amazingly (bloggers and stylists make less than you think they do), and some days I long for my own space. I am trying to look at a long-term picture... to think of this phase as laying the foundation for my coming career.
Here are a few tips that are helping me live a life of creativity and adventure:
// Minimize your expenses //
That might mean your iPhone, or it may mean your car. For me it meant both, as well as almost all clothes shopping. My only real bills are my school bills, I just try to keep those payed. The fewer expenses you have- the more adventures you can have.
// Maximise your network //
Collaborating with amazing people is the best way to expand professionally and creatively. Seriously. All the major opportunities I have received in the past few years have been through friends. Let the people around you know what you are working on. Reach out to fellow creatives. Beyond that ALWAYS stay connected.
// Stay Focused. But Diversify //
Don't be distracted by opportunities that will take you in the wrong direction or settle you down before your time. It takes a while to know your limits, and this is a tricky balance. Some weeks I don't have any photoshoots, so I focus on writing or painting. When I don't have paid work, I create my own projects that give me practice, and have the potential to pay off later. Diversify your revenue streams, while maintaining your integrity.
// Rely on the grace and goodness of others //
As much as I would like to say that "I did it all on my own"... I have to admit that it took a lot of coaching to get where I am, and it will take even more to get me where I am headed. Friends, family, and strangers have fed, housed, and educated me on my journeys. I am forever indebted to them. My parents have believe in me so much! Every time I get a huge mural commission, they have been there right along side me, painting, and bringing snacks. There is no way to succeed alone in creative endeavors.
// Follow others in your field //
Read articles by them. Follow them on twitter. Megan Gilger taught me that. When I first got a twitter account, she told me to follow every stylist, painter, and writer I respected, and anyone I wanted to be like. Solid advice. See what others are up to. Learn by example. Sometimes Jenn Elliott Blake and I talk through ideas, or issues we have on the job. It is a community, and we all help each other out. Find your community.
// Learn to value yourself beyond your accomplishments //
By far the most difficult part of free-lance work is thinking beyond the 9-5. I still struggle with viewing my accomplishments outside of that frame. Daily, I have to redefine success as building something long-term, providing inspiration to others, and developing meaningful relationships. In the end, what do you view as a creative, adventurous life?
// Don't compare yourself to others //
Everyone's journey is going to look different. I have had to stop following other blogs, so that I don't get bogged down with what I think my life is supposed to look like. You are going to build your own future, and it is going to take twice as long as you think it should. When you stop needing what others have, everything gets easier.
// More than anything, be comfortable with uncertainty. Because This:
As I return to blogging this Autumn, after a summer off, I am reminded that I am indeed blessed to be pursuing activities that fulfill me. It takes a lot of foolishness to defy good business sense in favor of happiness and fulfillment. I hope, That you, dear reader, will have the courage and foolishness to pursue your dreams and take some beautiful risks with your life.
Jonathan Randall Grant