Our Article Writer Olivia Church shares her thoughts on what it means to be a creative.
‘You’re so lucky’, said my friend of mine a few years ago – ‘you get to be creative and artistic and make things’. This friend was someone who was probably going to do an academic subject at university like English or Politics or, god forbid, maths. This also prompted Kylie Minogue’s ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ to play in the back of my head for the rest of the day. Luck is defined as ‘success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions’. If you’re sitting here reading this thinking that your mad photography skills and a membership to the Tate Modern ‘just kind of happened’, then I’m afraid I am going to disagree with you.
I think it’s likely that we all have a say in what path we take without relying on the stars above to guide us. Perhaps this holds more weight at an arts university. We’ve ascertained that luck is ‘brought by chance’ and yet an in an institution like this, it’s one of the few places where we can have total control of our direction, what we make and who we meet along the way. In BUMF’s FRESH issue, I talked a bit about the idea that whilst we do not always acquire a sense of self on our own, our identities are composited along with an array of external influences. If you would prefer the scientific terms, we are influenced by endogenous factors (i.e.: the internal beliefs) and exogenous factors (i.e.: external effects on an individual). Hopefully that won’t come up in a pub quiz any time soon.
As difficult as it may be, we even have a say in whether something has an impact on us. Sometimes it’s a case of us simply not liking something, if we don’t like it then we move on to find something that we do like (I’m thinking food as an example more than art here!). One problem that I’ve found is students of all capabilities can struggle to keep up with the fast-flowing channel of influence, new and old, and to try and make sense of it for themselves. As creative individuals, we encounter many choices and points of influence throughout our time here. Sharing knowledge and awareness of what is going on in industry is one thing, but when you have a number of people pointing to what is considered to be ‘good art’, it just makes things a little more difficult to navigate. It is important to separate your likes from your interests. You could like photographing landscapes but when you go for a country walk with the dog, you may spend the whole time looking for the next best snapshot.
Maybe we aren’t lucky at all – us artists have to constantly define and redefine ourselves for a sense of purpose in our work and appeal to wider audiences. Maybe the luck my friend referred to was that some of us have effectively avoided following the academic path and heading in a direction that not many choose to go down. And it doesn’t mean we haven’t had to study, practice, fail, win, fail again and wrack our brains out for a glimpse of an idea that might just make us realise how we want to spend our time. In a country that pushes, even heaves, for academic success from an early age, the fact that people choose to head in to the creative industries shows original thinking, passion and even a smirking sense of rebellion.
So, if it’s not luck that has brought us to where we are, then what has? What is the right word? I am not lucky because I was simply given the ability to illustrate or use my imagination to solve problems creatively. Nor am I lucky because my friend thinks there are people out there who are willing to pursue a road less travelled. A simple ‘go for it!’ would have sufficed. Considering the creative industries is one of the fastest growing centres of the British economy, perhaps what we really need is for others to be more open to those who choose to base their interests and careers in these sectors and to reinforce the idea that it will be worthwhile and you can achieve more than you realise. And luck will have nothing to do with it.
Words by Olivia Church, Illustrations by Sveinn Snær Kristjánsson