The Need to Create

The last few months have been a whirlwind of excitement, happiness, frustration, sadness and a realisation that I am not in a place I want to be; professionally or personally. 

I’ve used October as a bit of an experiment. I’ve more or less cut myself off from the world for the past 24 days; put my phone far away from wherever I am and made myself pretty uncontactable and giving no one an explanation. 

I do this from time to time to reconnect; to try and make sense of the million things that race around my head at any given moment. Sort of like a month long meditation with 9 hour breaks every day for work. 

I’ve needed to take time out to figure out what is important to me. And, I have had a breakthrough with some pretty unexpected realisations. 

The crux of it is that I have rediscovered truly, who I am; what makes me tick and what makes me happy. 

When I look back at all of the areas I have tried to make a living from; whether it is acting or music or photography or writing - they all have one thing in common: none of these things pay a mortgage. 

And they are all creative. They are all things I have loved at various points in my life and things that, over the past 17 years I have more or less abandoned for stability. But the price for that stability has been my soul. 

I remember, at the age of 13, being forced into the school play because I didn’t fit in. I had few friends and little confidence. But something magical happened when I set foot into the dark, musty drama hall at school for that first rehearsal of Breeze Though the Bullrushes (inventively titled because Mr French obviously didn’t want the lawyers coming down and smashing up the cheap, flimsy set because he hadn’t paid the license fee for Wind in the Willows…). 

I had found my home. 

It didn’t matter that I was bunny number 4. It didn’t matter that I hung around when I wasn’t needed, attending every single rehearsal soaking up this amazing new world I had discovered, learning every single line of every single part, falling right off the stage in the first scene of the first performance, cementing my reputation for the next three years; it didn’t matter. I fitted in. 

I wasn’t bullied, I wasn’t mocked - I was…valued; I was hanging around with the fifth formers. 

I. Was. Cool. (I wasn’t cool. Not ever.)

From that point drama was everything. It was all I wanted to do with my life. It gave me confidence and opportunities I had never had, it gave me friends and acceptance that I’d never experienced and it gave me security; emotionally, physically (though not financially. Never financially). And I was good at it. It was the only thing I was good at. It was only thing I had ever loved. I gave it everything and it repaid me a thousand times over. 

I also had the biggest champion in my mum. It makes a huge difference having someone fight your corner. It was because of her, and my dad of course, but mostly her, that I went to drama school and lived the dream, more convinced than ever that this is what I wanted to do with my life. 

But then she died. And so did I. 

I limped on, trying to convince myself that this is what I still wanted. But it wasn’t. Not really.

It was now hollow, pointless and vacuous. So, of course, it gave up on me. I had to find a proper job to sustain a meagre existence. And I hated it. I was back to being that kid with no friends in school. Week after week; month after month working shitty temp jobs with teen Neanderthals and fifty something year olds that had given up on life. Whose only pleasure was going to the pub on a Friday night, living for the weekend. The thought of being those people depressed me. I had no desire to play make believe anymore but still needed to scratch that creative itch. What do you do when you have an insatiable need for creativity without having the talent to be creative? 

You play drums in a band! 

I loved my band. If you have never been in a band you don’t know what it’s like to be in a band and you should definitely join a band. It is one of the most rewarding, creative life experiences that will ever happen to you. It gave me opportunities I never thought would be open to people like me. We were played on Radio 1. We toured. We had proper fans (10 of them). It gave me a level of confidence I had never had, it gave me girls and it gave me a stupid showbiz name. It gave us all hope that we could make it; and we nearly did but we didn’t and it crushed us. I think we all fell out of love with it a little after that. 

I was in a pretty serious relationship. I was getting married and I was drowning in debt and I felt the pressure to get a proper job. So I did. And I hated it. So what do you do when you have no desire to play make believe, no desire to hit things with sticks but still have an insatiable need to be creative? 

You become a photographer! 

This was 2007, before I phones negated the need for carrying around a huge brick of a camera and even bigger lenses. I loved those early days of learning my craft. It was so different to working with others to create something special. Photography was mine. It wasn’t to be shared, it wasn’t a compromise. I thought of something, I took a picture of it and there it was. My vision, unadulterated. It was, and it still is, visceral. 

Photography has given me opportunities I had never thought possible. I have been published the world over, in every paper in the UK; I have been trusted by over a hundred couples with their most treasured memories; I have a growing reputation in an industry where I hero worship most of those in it and I am so, so grateful for that. 

But….but, but, but - photography right now makes me no money. Like all creative industries you need a day job to subsidise your passion. Before this Summer, photography wasn’t even a passion any more. 

I’d massively lost my way. Every time over the past ten years I have toyed with the idea of giving up work to go full time freelance a promotion came along at work with a little more money, a lot more responsibility and greater pressure to support my family. I have never begrudged that - you do what you need to do to support those you love. But it has pushed me so far away from what makes me happy that it has affected every other part of my life. The day job consumed me and I have become that soulless office worker that lives for the weekend, minus the friends. It has cost me a marriage, it has cost me my family (for half the week), my confidence and self esteem, and has cost me a social network that is pretty much non existent now. And of course I am still drowning in debt. 

So, what’s changed? Why now? 

Well, I think there have been some small breakthroughs over the past couple of months. Nothing that will see me giving up the day job anytime soon - but have helped me realise that my heart lies in the creative realm because it is there I am happiest and the most confident. That needs to be the focus of my life and the day job needs to be seen as a means to an end to support it. 

I was reminded that I get booked for jobs because my work is good. Not because people pity me (they may pity me, but it’s fairly low on their list of reasons why they book me). I looked through my portfolio the other day and I was so surprised at how good a lot of it is that I tweeted about it. A few weeks ago I was put through hell at a management retreat which was designed to be as hellish as it sounds; It was horrible until I got the chance to be creative on a task and then it clicked. 

I miss working with like minded passionate people to create something, and I want to get back to that so, so much; and that means acting; it means music; it means writing and photography and all those things that I love. If I can combine those things with the day job then that would be the absolute dream come true - but if it doesn’t, then I have a few years to figure that out, and y’know what? I’m fine with that. 








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