A selection of writing implements on a desk.

How do I start building my career in the creative industries?

So, the truth is, things haven’t worked out at all how I’d planned them. Instead of growing up into Carrie Bradshaw, I grew up into the bastard love child of Miss Moneypenny and Gunther from Friends, and, for the most part, I’ve found myself either typing and filing or making coffee for a living since my university days. Now, neither administrator nor barista is a bad job in itself, and each of these jobs has the potential to become a fulfilling career for the right person.

Each of these jobs has, for me, paid the bills and afforded good opportunities for personal and professional development. In each one, I’ve had good times with good people. In each one, I’ve been able to make my mark, been able to leave a legacy that’s benefitted my successor(s). In each one, I’ve enjoyed a measure of success and taken pride in my accomplishments.

However, I’ve never been able to give of myself fully to either of these jobs (nor any of the other odd ones in between). I’ve never been able to go home satisfied that I’ve enriched my existence through the work I’ve done; I’ve never felt as though I’ve explored and exploited the entirety of my experience and expertise. I’ve always felt trapped by the working hours, or the uniform, or the policies and procedures. I’ve always felt at arm’s length from those colleagues who had been in the office or the coffee shop for a decade or more of their life. I’ve always felt as though I’ve been playing a role when I turn up for work, that this – whatever ‘this’ is – isn’t really who I am. And it’s not, because these jobs – none of the jobs I’ve ever done – have really been what I’ve wanted to do. I’ve never lived my dream.

The thing is, what I want to do is – was – a dream that I neglected to nurture, in which I failed to invest the appropriate time, money and effort – something I know now only because of the benefit of hindsight. I think back on my choices, the fact that I did not prepare appropriately to take advantage of any opportunities across which I came. Does it matter that I didn’t know what opportunities might have been in my future? Is there any use in picking this all apart now?

In the years following my graduation from my master’s degree, my dream languished in the recesses of my mind as I clicked ‘print’ or steamed milk, and eventually passed away. Now, I’m left with the memory of a dream and regret and sadness for all the things that might have been. It’s gone. It’s not coming back. It can’t be resurrected. The death of my dream will forever be responsibility, and I have spent years now in mourning for the life I could and would have had, had my dream come true.

I have only recent come to terms with this. Looking over the past few years, I realise I have gone through some of the ‘traditional’ stages of grief in dealing with this, and I guess I’m at the ‘acceptance’ stage. It’s this that’s spurred me on to set up The Five to Nine, at a time during which I’ve started to gather up all of the odds and sods that I’ve done over the years outside the day job(s) – the nine to fives – and am trying to turn these into a successful portfolio career – by my own measure. I’m moving on from The Dream, but taking what I learnt from having had it with me as I try for something new, as I try and take control of what I do to earn my living and how I do it. As I try and take those parts of my dream that were always feasible and make them come true in some manner.

The legacy of my dream is that I want a fulfilling career in the creative industries; however, the more experience and expertise I gain within these, the less I’m certain about the direction I want this to take. I know a little about a lot, and the one thing I know for sure is that I don’t really know what I want to do with all that knowledge. Is it one thing? Is it all the things?

Do I want to design, or make, or become an artist? Am I a creative teacher, or businessperson? Am I a creative academic at heart? The Five to Nine is the start of my exploration and interrogation of both different creative practices and my relationship with these. Through this, and over time, I hope to be able to guide myself towards something or some things that allow me to perhaps dream a new dream, and to make that one come true.

I don’t mean signing up for night classes in pottery, oil painting and basket weaving (but there’s nothing stopping me from giving those things a whirl), trying to see if something ‘sticks’, but a series of deliberate lines of enquiry into the bits and pieces I’ve already done, and some of the things I’ve not yet done but have always wanted to do, in the hope of seeing if there’s something through which I feel able to express myself, and situate myself within one or more creative communities.

I mean finding ways of organising and motivating myself to work on all of this outside working hours, to commit to developing myself personally and professionally in the hope of being able to say I am satisfied in these areas; completely self-employed, autonomous and financially self-sustaining, and creatively fulfilled.

I’m looking forward to this journey, and am acutely aware that it may be something without a definite end. Most creative endeavours are a series of processes, with outcomes, products, artworks and the like marking intervals in someone’s development or the start and end of stages or projects, rather than The End. Which, I guess, brings me to the end of this first post on The Five to Nine; writing about all this will only get me so far – I have to get out there and do it.