‘Really? You want to study that?’: in defence of creative careers

Sumaya delivers the ultimate pep talk on the importance of pursuing your dream job

Mustering the courage to pursue a creative career can be an incredibly hard thing to do. It’s made increasingly difficult when you have to fight your way through voices in our society, possibly in addition to your own, that attempt to discourage you. Whether it’s creative arts funding being cut from school curriculums, your parents urging you to follow a more academic route, or the laughter of your taxi driver when you tell them what you’d like to study, it’s definitely not on the downlow that creative subjects are looked down upon. They can be considered an educational ‘easy out,’ or deemed an infeasible option for the future.

I’ve always had the support of my amazing mum who has helped me in any and every capacity on my creative journey. Although I always try to turn up the volume on her words of encouragement, the disheartening ones still often bleed through – so I can imagine how demoralising it must be for those who are met solely with unsolicited advice belittling their passions. This article is for you. I’m here to tell you just why those voices are wrong and why you should keep going.

‘The creative arts offer nothing to society’

Well this one’s just BS of the highest calibre. Before we learn to write, we learn to draw. Before we learn to talk, we learn to sing. Before we learn to walk, we learn to dance. Us creatives wouldn’t have unreasonable grounds to argue most things are built upon the foundation of the creative arts. They have an inherent place within us and are essential for both our personal and academic growth. Whilst dance and song aren’t explored much in the classroom, drawing usually is until we reach Year 1. It’s at this point that our once praised drawings are awarded second place to our writing skills and are instead considered a distraction to the ‘real’ task at hand. However, research actually shows that pupils whose artistic capabilities were nurtured, ranging from non-existent to prodigal, went on to produce written work to a higher quality in addition to improving their communicative skills.

If you’re still convinced the arts give us nothing, imagine music-less commutes and nights out, and the lack of colour on our screens, streets and walls. All the connections, thoughts and feelings they evoke would be gone.

‘That’s not a real job!’/ ‘You won’t get paid’

Our time is valuable. Although we’ll never know how much of it we have to give, the sands of our hourglasses have been pouring from day one. So why are we so liberal with wasting it in a job that brings us no to little joy? And since when was it decided that you have to despise your work to warrant getting paid for it? If you can make a living doing something you love and make the whole process of life about just that – living instead of simply surviving – why wouldn’t you? When you’re passionate about something, it’s hard to imagine doing much else. All other options begin to feel like a compromise and do no favours for your mental health.

Of course, so much more than your occupation contributes to the condition of your mental well-being. However, I can say from personal experience that being in an environment where you’re welcomed to explore and express yourself freely has begun to heal me in its own little ways. I also think being surrounded by supportive individuals who are on the same wavelength as you is underrated.

If you’re offering someone your time, energy and skills – a service – it’s sure as heck a real job. Whilst a lot of creatives are reluctant to put a price on their work and own their worth, it’s definitely a misconception that the arts don’t pay well. This is my first job in a creative line of work and it’s the most I’ve ever been paid. From designing, to researching, to marketing, to directing, some of the best paying jobs are within the creative industries. 

‘Don’t pick creative subjects for GCSE or A-Level’

Countless people I know have been steered away from studying creative subjects at school or in higher education. They’re told if they do, they’ll be less likely to get a job in the future or that it will lessen their chances of getting into university. First of all, uni’s not for everyone – do what you want to do and live your best life. That doesn’t have to include going to uni. Secondly, surely it’s perfectly logical for someone who wants a career within a creative industry to focus on, study and develop their skills related to that chosen career path? So, essentially, what teachers are really saying when they share their two pence is ‘you shouldn’t want a creative job and if you do, don’t and certainly don’t attempt to prepare yourself for it.’

Schools love to sit us down for assembly and preach to us about grit and perseverance, yet in the same breath tell us to give up on our aspirations before we even attempt to achieve them. They want their students doing the same subjects that lead to the same jobs. They’re more concerned with how their pupils look on paper than what’s going on in their minds. Creative vision is unique, so I guess at the very least it makes sense that the arts are discouraged within a system that tries to fit individuals into the same mould.

‘Don’t you know that’s really hard to get into?’

Most careers are competitive. All things that are worth anything require time, energy and effort. We should be encouraging the youth of today to push themselves and strive for something that’s fulfilling for them. Life’s simply too unpredictable and temporary to have inauthentic, insignificant goals. Regardless, there’s so much to be learnt in failure. Pursuing anything is a process and will never happen overnight. So go big or go home.

What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever been told to stop you from pursuing your passions? Let us know in the comments.