Creating Will Not Always Equal Money, and That's Okay
Hey hi hello!
I haven't blogged in a hot minute (ok, fine, almost a month) because a ton has been going on. For one, I went to Iceland with my family for a week back in January. I also started my second semester of senior year, did some freelance writing, and celebrated the first anniversary of my website, The Light Leaks. It's been a pretty busy month. I've seen a lot of friends, traveled with my family, put in a lot of serious work for The Light Leaks' future, and have gotten my head back to school. I feel like I've stayed productive but still found time to sleep, workout, and just....hang out.
Now I know this sounds almost ideal for any college student in a creative field: free time, the balance of social time and introspective thinking, and sleep.
But something's missing from my life right now- creating for myself.
Creating helps me understand myself and the world. I don't know what else I'd do if I didn't try to document through film what I've experienced or the situations I've dreamt up. I feel like I'd just have so much in my head that I'd explode. Who knows. But what I do know is that I haven't written, directed, or edited ANYTHING that is solely my own since last May. We're in March right now. That's almost a full year where I've been without the processes that make me feel understood, capable, and complete. It's not a great feeling. I know that the reason for this is mostly due to my combination of school work, the Light Leaks, and internships.
It's hard to find time to write creatively when you're working so hard to get in essays on time and fulfill obligations as a student. It's possible. But it's difficult. And I'm not good at forcing myself to write. With the Light Leaks, it's been my greatest decision and something that truly breathes life into me when I feel like I start to wither. To be able to craft a space for female and gnc filmmakers, a space I didn't see out there, has been beautiful and truly life affirming. But, it's also been tiring and time consuming to work on a site with no revenue, no team and no funding. I have plans to change those aspects in the future but for now, it is what it is. As for an internship? With not working this semester, I've had the time to dedicate to myself to stay physically and mentally well and that has been a blessing. But, it means lack of structure and money!
With all of this in mind, I started to find myself deciding not to write. I was actively deciding not to do something I love because I was not noticing immediate benefits. I feel like so many young people can relate to wanting to be paid for using their skills at any opportunity. I'm fresh out of what feels like a year long sprint of internships, classwork, freelance work, networking, and more where more often than not- I was being paid for my time.
No one is paying me to go to a Starbucks on Tuesday morning and sit with tea, dissecting ideas for a short film.
And that's exactly why I have to do it.
I didn't realize the connection between not wanting to schedule time for free writing and not being paid for it until I saw an advisor at my school. We were catching up on life, he's been my mentor for about two years now- and when he asked when my next film would be released I froze. Next film? I can't get my butt out of bed most mornings and I have 0 motivation to do anything outside of school and the Light Leaks. Who's making another film? Not me. I hadn't made a mood board in ages. I stopped browsing tumblr for images and colors that called to me. I stopped watching as many shorts as I had before.
He quickly sensed my hesitation and read me like I feel only people who really know me can. He told me I couldn't not do something I loved simply because it wasn't making me money right now. I realized that I fell into a mental routine of strategically choosing projects or opportunities based off of what benefits it could provide for me in the future. Benefits like networking, career or mental growth, or money of course. But with writing a short film or web series and shooting that, there's no guaranteed outcome besides growing skills and my portfolio. My sophomore year I created 3 short films and a web series in the span of about 6 months. It was so stressful but so much fun. I think as I got busier, I had to become more strategic with my time and slowly I cut myself out of the equation. I used the creation of the Light Leaks to fulfill creative desires but I stopped truly creating original pieces myself. I dwindled down to maybe a video or two a year and feeling heavy self criticism whenever I released work.
I've written about creativity before but this realization is different. It's about seeing worth in your work because you created it. Not because it'll be something that makes you money or brings some other big pay off. I had lost sight of why I love what I do because I had felt so much pressure to keep things going. To keep juggling everything. To keep everyone happy and proud of me. But that was all in my head. After talking to my advisor I understood that it is not a small thing to take time out of my day to write. It's big, huge even. Allowing myself the time to create for myself and to take up space, working things out in my head, is beyond monetary value. Creating, when it's organic and authentic, is never a waste of time. And I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't realize that earlier because I feel like I've said that to others but not given myself that freedom. I wasn't unhappy during the time I wasn't creating anything myself, it was just weird. It felt like I hadn't seen a friend in awhile and I thought about them often but just didn't find time to catch up with them.
If what I love to do is write and direct films and I was working so hard to ensure that could be my future (through working hard in school, obtaining internships, networking, etc) and wasn't even creating anything in the meantime- what was the point? It doesn't make sense. But it applies to every creative field. I know illustrators who feel bad for doodling or designing for fun when they have orders to fill. I know writers who have valid thoughts to share but can't without finding a site to host their work. So much of it is the product of mass consumption online, short attention spans, and of course money. I'm not doubting it's importance or control over creatives at all. I understand that right now I'm in a position where money does not need to dictate my decisions, it only guides them. And I'm lucky which is why I need to use this time wisely.
It's 2 months until graduation and I'm going to make a web series. I've been dreaming up a web series idea for awhile now because I'm deeply inspired by creating content for digital screens and the ways short form stories can unravel through a series of videos. So inspired from that conversation with my mentor at school, I'm teaming up with my good friend Tara. Tara is an actress, producer, and writer who I met a few years ago during a class at Rutgers. She's great. She's bright and funny and has a distinct way of making me feel comfortable enough to open up about like every embarrassing moment in my life. This is the first time I'm writing something with someone and I'm excited that it's going to be with her. We have the ideas for structure and content and we're in the pre production stage but I don't want to spoil anything else. All I know is that I'm excited to see where this takes me and I'm happy that I'm allowing myself the freedom to create work I want without constraints.
There's going to be so many instances in my future as a creative where I'm limited by financial restrictions. But I shouldn't place those on myself. It's free for me to write on Tuesday morning- so I should be. It's the only way I'll get better at what I love to do. And if I'm not the best I can be at it, I won't get paid for it in the future. I was putting myself in this weird cycle that wasn't fair to myself and I'm happy that the cycle is broken.
Happy creating everyone!!