How do you stay creatively healthy when you DO have a job?

Convener(s): Hannah Crosson

Participants: Miriam Mustin, Polly Moseley, Gemma Kerr, Lian Bell, Caroline Thompson, Madeleine Bowyer, Aleasha Chaunte, Denise Heads, Hannah Quiggley, Lucy P.W, Kerry-Jayne, and others who weren’t noted down at the time! 

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Areas covered:

General themes:

  • Working in the arts for money can sometimes lead to being an administrator and so how to stay an ‘artist’?
  • It would be interesting to compare with how to stay creatively healthy when you don’t have a job?
  • Being labeled as a ‘worker’ or ‘administrator’ etc – possibly how we limit ourselves by feeling this label
  • The problem of living in a ‘surviving by working in a job’ bubble – makes you feel you can’t leave the structure of work, also seems to impinge on ‘creative’ thinking

Further questions raised:

  • What do we mean by creativity?

…some of the group saw this as being the production of work, others saw it as remaining creative within work, or as a general principle in life. It was raised that we could consider ways to try and build this into our working lives.

  • Do we have to cut out all sleep? seemed that to be able to fit in the hours of work with sustaining an arts practice would inevitably imply having to cut out sleeping – it was agreed though that this may not be so healthy! Physically or mentally – so a compromise would have to be sort out.

  • Surely it means we have to ‘cut’ some things out of our lives though?

..the general response was yes to this. To be able to juggle different commitments, priorities have to be made and certain things trimmed away to make more time. You will need to decide: what gets sacrificed?

  • Is it sustainable to work in London and attempt to survive on such little money?

…was left un answered!

  • Do you have to ‘show something for yourself’?

…the group talked about ways in which we feel that to be ‘creative’ means to be ‘producing’ work – having something to show. Perhaps creativity is not always about MAKING things, or not about ONLY MAKING CERTAIN SPECIFIC THINGS.

  • Am I being creative if I’m not creating something every day?

…There is a tendency to feel that you are not being creative enough if you so not work on a creative project everyday. The groups responded that we should not be so un realistic and expect too much of ourselves, or set up harsh rules by which to judge ourselves by.

  • Can you be creatively healthy in mundane job?

…It depends on the individual – some people find it useful to work in a boring job that they can forget about to enable focus on creative projects, others find opportunities come through more creatively stimulating jobs – a space for further development. likewise the work patterns need to be right for you – possibly work part time, flexible hours if possible, or work solidly for 6 months to allow 6 months of practice.

  • What is important – what others people’s opinions are or your own? is creativity more for yourself?

…it emerged that some of us possibly feel a pressure of other peoples opinions of us and what we do – how we are creative. This should be considered and thought through if so.


  • Time management working full time and trying to still keep personal work going.

…It became quite clear that there needs to be a lot of considered time management – we might do this for our jobs, but we also (possibly more importantly) need to do this for ourselves too.

  • It is better to collaborate was felt that to work on your own in this situation is very hard as you are tempted to get home and watch TV after work…

  • Books to read…

The Artists Way – has some good helpful exercises – take it with a pinch of salt

The Gift, Lewis Hyde – talks about creativity in commercialized society

Why French Women Don’t Get Fat – ( and approach art like this).

Letters to a Young Artist

  • Networking projects/ initiatives

Genesis Directors project – Young Vic skills sharing workshop opportunities to share skills. ideas etc

New Work Network – network for artists, looks to develop an online skills swap resource – also a way to connect with other artists and look to find collaborations.

  • Take up a regular activity that is not linked to your creative exploit can rejuvenate you and give you a structure to your free time.
  • Just being creative – for 3 min a day can keep it going

Change the way you think:

  • Even ‘automated robots’ who get up for work can look out of the window on the way to work and appreciate…
  • All jobs – are connected – transferable skills – use this for creative work.

…an example was given of one job would teach skills that could then influence the next job, or the next creative project.

  • accept that if you have less time, things will take longer to create.

…it was felt that this can be a good thing and it can benefit ‘creativity’ to spend longer lengths of time on it – also, although the thing may not be worked on constantly it will be developing and ticking over at the back of your mind.

  • self discipline:

…it still seems to remain a question of this.

  • creative organisation need to allow your creativity.

…There was a lot of talk that the Creative Industries need to consider flexible working hours for their staff. many people working in the arts have a practice of some kind, and so it was felt that arts organisation should be more flexible with staff rather than expanding working hours even further.

This discussion went into examples of European approaches to artists – how in Berlin artists get tax breaks (?) and that the French will protest when changes are made to working legislation. We need to be more active in the UK. There should be a union for arts practitioners.

  • Use your creativity to prepare and cook your meals

…A interesting point was raised that creativity can be something that is small and that you do on your own. It should be incorporated into your life, as part of your life and not something on the edge that can get pushed out. This raised the questions of what we consider creativity to be and what the role of ‘other people’s responses’ to your own creativity are. How much are you living your own artistic dream and how much is social view on creativity?

  • Healthy’ (creativity) in terms of:

…. of balancing areas of your life.

  • Creativity is about connecting (and shouldn’t be viewed as just in traditional forms) – and can be a connecting in any way.

…If you see [a more traditional form of] creativity as the only way to connect with the world then you are fucked – you need to incorporate it into your life more.

  • Leap and the net will appear

…There’s a tendency to think ‘oh, I can’t leave my job, I won’t have any money, and won’t find another shitty job’ – but when you make a change other things can take place that offer new opportunities.

Bigger questions to ask those attended Open Space and others reading this:

  • Do we want to lobby for flexible working hours within the arts sector?

And finally…

  • The cat walked – graced us with it’s presence!
  • All jobs expand the definition of what creativity is
  • Self awareness – on daily basis – small changes being aware and having space
  • Don’t see creativity as being such a separate thing
  • Having a ‘shit job’ is just for the moment – part of life – bigger picture rather than focusing on small immediacies.
  • Be playful rather then being serious all the time!
  • Why not? why not try this?