Creativity: Making a Living With Your Ideas

Anyone pursuing a creative career should realize it's a job. A fun job. However, discipline is essential and like an athlete, dancer, film maker or musician; practice and challenge yourself constantly to get better. Although I make my living as a film maker, I teach a class I developed about entrepreneurship called "Creativity: Making a Living With Your Ideas" at Parsons School for Design in New York City. I was recently interviewed about building and sustaining a creative career by Doug Smith.

1. How do you approach building a creative career with your students?
As a teacher, my job is to provoke, entertain, disrupt and educate. I crack jokes, make outrageous things up, call on students randomly to include everyone in the discussion and most importantly, create an environment where the students will feel safe so they will not be afraid to speak up. Student engagement is key, which means I encourage them to find their voice and express themselves. As a film director. I do the same when working with talent. Feeling emotionally safe can foster the confidence to express.

2. What are some tips to keep in mind for people wanting to start a business or creative career that will keep them motivated?
Motivation is why you do something; for money, fame, approval, satisfaction, etc. It's up to the person to keep themselves motivated by what they hope to get out of what they do. Creativity is an affirmative action, initiated by the person doing it. One can be supported and encouraged by others, but the motivation has to come from within. What's most important is to provide yourself with the motivation and drive to go after what you want and figure out how to get there. There is no single or magical pathway.

3. What would you say to someone who has failed at starting a creative career or business, but still wants to make it work?
First, it's important to define what failure is for you. If a person has failed in their pursuit, be it in business or personal relationships, it's important to understand why. Failure can be a terrific learning experience, if you can truly understand why you didn't achieve what you had hoped to and then develop a different strategy that will lead to a better outcome. Failure to me, is not trying. As long as I keep trying and keep learning, I haven't failed.

4. Are there ways to take a current career and make it creative?
Frank Zappa defined music as "any sound you can control." It's all about how you look at what you do and how you act on it; music, painting, boxing, mathematics, everything can be creative or drudgery. A creative person discovers the ways to make what they do interesting.

5. Starting a creative career requires:

• the clarity to determine where/how one wants to apply their creative efforts
• an awareness of the distinctive difference they can bring to that pursuit
• the knowledge that there is a market for what it is they want to create
• the ability to articulate that difference to whoever is the gatekeeper you need to get through, e.g. investors, employers, employees, colleagues, vendors, consumers
• the desire to collaborate with others who have complementary talents -- and to enjoy the process.
• not being paralyzed by the fear of risk or failure because if you are afraid of either you will never do anything interesting
• thick enough skin to persevere through the inevitable rejection & criticism you'll receive
• the realization that whatever you create, it is separate from you so criticism and rejection shouldn't be taken personally

Making a living with your creativity is a tough, but it's tougher going through life doing something you don't like. Passion is the fuel that propels talent, but you need the perseverance to deal with the hustle & the rejection. Creativity is the passion to affect change. Passion is internal. Follow your passion.