Finding Your Way

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Feature by Tom Spare, who works in higher education in Cardiff. He’s an aspiring screenwriter. In this blog post he discusses finding a field of work to thrive in. You can follow him @TomSpareUKC.

A while back I was talking to my brother, who is an artist and designer. We were discussing his life and career, running a business with his wife, living abroad.

He came up with a great phrase, stolen from someone else, who probably… stole it from someone else. My brother said:

You’ve got to find your field and sit in it if you want to make a success of your career, with your given talents.

Find your field. And sit in it. Find something you’re good at, work at it and become successful. Simple, right? Well, it is, and it isn’t.

TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

Finding your field can be pretty straightforward, if you’re someone like my brother who knew from a young age he wanted to be an artist.

He confidently declared that he wanted to, “Be an artist in a big city.” Aged 15 that’s what he wanted to do. He set his path. And he’s achieved his goal. It wasn’t easy, it took well over a decade to get there, but he did it.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers suggests it takes more than 10,000 hours to become an expert in something, using classic examples like Bill Gates and The Beatles.

For a lot of people working in the creative sector, an artist’s calling can often be a real test of character and patience.

It’s more of a marathon, than a sprint. It requires a Gladwellian 10,000 hours +, and it requires my brother’s self-belief to get there.

There is a silver lining. If you work in the creative sector in the UK, or want to find a job in the creative sector, there’s no better time.

Having talked to creatives in the know at Iris film festival in Cardiff, Barnes film festival in London, and going along events like the BBC Wales Writers Room, there is plenty of confidence in the UK Film and Television industry.

There’s even talk of a thriving industry in a post-Brexit Britain. Tax breaks, skilled labour, amazing locations and a weak pound make the UK a very attractive place to invest in. Take advantage of that.  

THE CREATIVE FORCE OF A NATION

The creative industries are worth around £100 billion to the UK economy, and is one of the fastest growing sectors.

The UK government defines creative industries as:

“Those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property.”

The sector is a broad church. From Advertising to fashion design, IT software to museums and galleries, TV and Film to crafts. Of that £100 billion, 40% relate to IT, software and computer services.

Film, TV, radio and photography contribute to around 16.5%. The gaming industry contributes to about 5% of the industry.

It’s worth considering there are so many jobs and roles that relate to the industry, whether that’s the technology created to make awe-inspiring CGI, or the lighting that changes mood on set. There’s plenty of fields to choose from. 

Once you’ve identified your field, you’ve got to sit in it. You have got to commit to your passion, to your talent. You have to live and breathe your goals.

This seems obvious, but it can often be at odds with what is expected of us in contributing to wider society.

It’s true, being a teacher or a nurse, working in an office, in a trade, taking the well-trodden path is to be expected of us.

So much of our lives are dictated by other people, in years past artists and writers and actors were chastised as deviants and tricksters. But in reality companies across all sectors are crying out for creatives.

In business, big and small, in start-ups, universities, government, in services, banking, building. The world needs outside-the box thinkers.

A report published by Universities UK in December 2018, suggested that 65% of children entering primary school that year would be working in jobs and functions that currently don’t exist.

The world needs creatives, to challenge us, to blow our minds and keep us human as we speed towards AI dependency.  

Standing out in an interconnected world is also a huge challenge. There is so much information to consume, and some many ways to procrastinate that it can often seem overwhelming to focus on one thing.

We live in an era where people are consuming information like no other. Ofcom calls it a, “Decade of digital dependency.”

In the UK, on average people check their phones every 12 minutes, 65% of under 35s check their phones in the first five minutes of waking up, and the average 18-24 year old spends 3 hours and 14 minutes on their phone a day.

BECOMING A CREATIVE

On the flip side, it’s never been more straightforward to become a creative. If you have a mobile phone, you can be a film-maker.

If you can code, you can create amazing websites and design games. If you invest in a decent script writing software, you can become a screen writer. We’re living in an opening up and a democratisation of the creative sector.

It’s worth considering when you’re looking to find a career in the creative sector, that you don’t just obsess about living in London.

London is a creative hub for sure and an amazing city, but there are plenty of other cities which are vibrant and growing creative centres. Bristol, Cardiff and Dundee to name just a few.

In the time I’ve lived in Cardiff I’ve seen a huge growth in the Wales’ creative output. Cardiff has hosted a vast range of TV and film productions.

  • Doctor Who.
  • Sherlock.
  • Call the Midwife.
  • Casualty.
  • Sex Education.
  • His Dark Materials.

All of which are filmed in Cardiff and across Wales.

Whether you make money from your creative endeavours relies on a whole host of factors. If I knew the secret, I would be writing this from a beach in Bermuda.

But instead I’m in my flat which has damp patch in the living room and a leaking overflow outside.

What I will say is this: if you have a project you want to work on, do it.

If you know someone in the industry, message them, ask them how they got where they are. If you know about a creative writing class, join it. If you’ve got the tools make it. Upskill, reskill, change your course.

In an age of social media, we’re governed by unhealthy comparisons to others, creatives have an opportunity to challenge, to reinvent, to reconnect the world. You’ll doubt yourself, there’ll be good days and bad. But, ultimately, it’s up to you.

All you’ve got to do is find your field and sit in it.

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