Balancing Regular and Creative Work

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balancing regular and creative work

By Sorren Jones

Illustrator, animator and photographer after work

Personal story

When I was at university studying for my degree in animation I had (and still have) this great desire to work in the creative industry. I even got lucky a few times assisting professionals at the BBC studios and sat in on meetings at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. I got positive feedback on the work I was doing and greatly enjoyed working on my craft full time. I graduated with a good grade, then nothing, well not professionally anyway. I excitedly submitted my portfolios and showreels but it never got any further than that.

While I was busy submitting portfolios, I secured regular work. The plan being I would look for creative work around regular work until I get lucky and one day land a paid creative assignment before ultimately making the switch from regular work to making a dent in the creative industry. I told myself then (and still tell myself now) that if I don’t succeed finding paid creative assignments then I will happily work on self-initiated projects until I do eventually, as they say, make it.

Balancing regular and creative work can be tough but very rewarding, especially when new skills and a body of work starts to present itself. So how do I do it? Let me break it down for you.

Work on one project at a time

Well, I usually work on one project at a time. I like to have a very clear idea of what it is that I am working on. I have one children’s picture book under my belt and I am currently working on a second. I also have four other short stories I want to develop and complete thereafter.

I tend to get ideas for more stories when I am struggling with the current one. I write down all my ideas as soon as they come to me, either on paper, or digitally. I refer to these notes constantly during the development of my creativity to either get me started on a project or to keep me going on the current one.

In a strange way, working in a regular and non-creative environment gives me distance from my personal projects and allows me the space to think more freely about my projects.

Therefore I am able to gather ideas more liberally and this can be pretty advantageous.

Remain inspired

This all seems incredibly easy when writing it down but the truth is it is not, time is definitely hard to manage, especially when working creatively is not my full time job. Life gets in the way. Time goes by quickly and often without much to show for one person working on a self initiated project. Staying focused and dedicated is a discipline in itself.

To remain inspired:

  • I surround myself with lots of visual inspiration to draw from, this really can take any form or media, pictures of other people’s work, which I literally print off and fix to my creative wall or pin in a digital scrapbook.
  • I surround myself with picture books and other printed and audio material I aspire to.
  • I visit art museums and galleries. I take in as much as possible. I appreciate so fiercely the great stuff that is out there and I want to give something back.
  • I set lots of goals and deadlines.
  • I keep a notepad or writing device with me at all times.
  • I set tasks and break these up over a set period of time.
  • I set aside a little time each day to read, reading from creative people is a good way for me to keep up to date with stuff and to remain inspired, focused and driven. Since my usual job takes up most of my time, I work around it.
  • I get to work an hour early when I can, I sit down in the break room there and progress with my projects for an hour before I start work.
  • I read on breaks and lunches.
  • I carry on with projects at home after work for a couple hours, marking off my to-do lists along the way, and updating them accordingly with what I need to do next.
  • I make time for the gym, cinema, socializing around my creative endeavours. It is a lot for me to balance and I am forever trying to improve my time management.

As tiring as things can be sometimes I remind myself that my main objective is to stay creative, develop my skills and continue learning great things. Life is full of it! Whether I make it in the industry or not I know I will never lose my creative vision and I will continue to have lots of fun with it!