What I learnt sacrificing creative writing for financial security

I would love to say I have always loved writing, but the truth is I’m not sure it’s been “always.” I’ve had an inclination towards writing for as long as I can remember. Maybe it was because I fell in love with stories from an early age, earlier than my adult memory can remember. That’s the thing about things you’ve had a knack for at a young age, they become engrained in your identity because you can remember those things always being part of your life. Novels, writing, dancing, drawing…creativity. Somewhere along the road things changed.

I learnt that creative writing isn’t a sensible career, it doesn’t pay, never mind dancing, what kind of a career would that be, especially in a developing country? But, I was stubborn. I read too many books not to know that it’s smarter to do what you’re good at if you want to succeed, and I was, still am good at writing. So, I comprised. I decided to lean on non-fiction writing to build a career, thus began the blogging phase of my life.

I call it a phase because, before this post (written sometime during my inconsistent stage), I don’t remember the last time I wrote on my blog or anyone else’s blog. I set out to build a portfolio for my writing, gain clients, make money and share my writing. And I did that, I became a professional writer. Until I decided to venture into Communications and join the NGO sector, and I did (it wasn’t as simple and straightforward as I’m making it sound). Securing a steady job, with a decent income, doing what I’m pretty good at was exactly what I wanted…except something died along the way.

I can’t draw to save my life anymore, that’s a skill that dies when it goes unnurtured. As a child, I used to fill my mother’s work diaries with 3D drawings of cars, that was my main obsession. I haven’t danced in over 6 years, and I’m not talking about dancing at a party, in a club, or family gathering. I’m talking about practised, choreographed dancing…the deliberate movement of limbs to convey a message. And now, now that I have the job, the apartment, and the security I craved, I struggle to write. The stories that used to rush through my head at a wild speed sometimes only plod through reluctantly once in a while.

Of all the things to die, the stories where the last ones to go. I’m afraid that one day, maybe a decade from now, I’ll look back and remember a time when I could weave magnificent fictional stories in my head. Just like with ‘drawing’, I’ll wonder how I could have been artistic enough to pull it off, and I’ll shake my head with sadness that I let that die too. It makes me sad and empty that I’m running down a path that’s taking me away from the things that bring me life.

So many of us young people label ourselves as “creatives” and it’s a title with connotations. We’re not the really rich ones, no, we’re the ones who spend all our time doing cool, fun stuff (or so the perception goes) for a living. We get to do what we love. We create magnificent stuff and the level of creativity you have determines how ‘cool’ or valuable your work is. Two years ago, I was firmly entrenched in advertising, and I hated it. As a Copywriter, you’re hired for your creative prowess, but I hated it. It wasn’t the dream job that I thought it would be. I started to question if I was truly as creative as I liked to think I was.

It went downhill from then on. Long story short I decided maybe creativity wasn’t my thing after all. And so I stopped. I became paralysed with indecision, doubt, apathy and the desire to still acquire the material things I wanted, which my job allowed me to do. And then I began to feel empty. Uninterested in doing the very things that inspired me, excited me and bring that glint into my eyes. I felt that part of me start to fade and die, and I knew something was wrong. That is the day I realized that I AM a creative spirit, and without fulfilling that part, the work part of my life becomes dull and desolate.

READ: If you want to be more creative. get bored

I sacrificed that side of me for the job that lets me have the financial independence I badly craved. I ask myself if it’s worth it, but attempting to make a viable career out of those things is a mammoth task that requires energy that my job constantly burns out of me. Here’s where creatives make a gross error, working an 8-5 that demands the same from you that your creative endeavours do. It’s obviously easier to clinch a job based on what you excel at, but sometimes it takes everything away too. It leaves your cup empty.

Was there a lesson in here somewhere? A purpose in writing this? A takeaway for you? I don’t know. What I do know is oftentimes we let life derail us completely until everything we do is about survival (which is necessary) or worse we live for the weekend. Not everything we do has to bring us money, although living in a failed state requires we try everything to earn an extra buck. It’s okay to spend time and energy focusing on things purely for enjoyment, or to help others, or to make a difference, without earning money or fame as the end goal. It’s important not to let everything go because your mental wellbeing will suffer.

Important aspects of ourselves die, and we won’t see it until years have passed and we look back and ask ourselves how we became the people we are. We ask ourselves what happened to all the fire and light, and wonder where the deep-seated dissatisfaction we have with our own lives came from. It’s an unsettling and regrettable feeling. At the moment I work (my job at the time of writing) so I can live (my lifestyle) but for the kind of person I am, that is problematic. It occurred to me that I need to change things, to figure out a way around it, or else continue my descend into complete apathy, an emotion or lack of that leads to suicide in ‘at risk’ individuals.

I hope you find or build your fire, and keep it burning. Until next time. 

(PS: I wrote this several months from the date of publication. I had a chance to pursue more creative endeavours full-time but it hasn’t been easy. I’ve learnt that perhaps one has to find a way to strike the perfect balance.)

By Yvonne Feresu

Hi, I'm on a mission to be the best darn blogger south of the Sahara...and yes I know "best" is relative but you get my drift. So far I've won a national award for this blog, and earn my living professional as a writer, that's pretty cool, isn't it?

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