Hi, in early 2020 I started providing career advice for novel writers in Perth after living in Melbourne and Adelaide for 17 years. In Melbourne I was a PhD student in creative writing. One exercise in a week long advanced leadership and professionals skills course I did while there, we had to draw your life in 5 years time on an A1 sheet of paper. I was paired with Brenda. In her first career she had been an actor. Then she opened an art gallery after her husband had a heart attack. At the time we met she was writing a play as part of an MFA. The first thing she said when she saw my drawing was “where’s your money?”
This is can be a central question for many creatives – writers, painters and musicians whose primary focus was on praxis during their career crucial twenties and thirties. Too often a writer’s money is coming from a ghastly soul corroding job. Brenda’s focus was right but not the question. I think asking this question that way is endemic to writers who struggle with balancing creative endeavours and what they are doing for biosurvival tickets.
What are you going to do for money? is a better question. What skills and values are you clued into that can be employed for your financial well-being? Is even more useful. How can you use your skills and values in gainful employment without compromising the praxis that is the wellspring of meaning in your life? An answer to that question might really change things.
The first time I really listened to career advice in Perth was during the early 90’s recession. It was a replay of an old Jimi Hendrix interview. He said you need to be doing something to bring in the bread while you are developing your art even if it is washing dishes. A couple of years later I tried that while writing a novel length piece of fiction and man, Jimi had it dead wrong. There must be a hundred better things to do while you are immersed in creative endeavour. Career development in your day job doesn’t have to be as concentrated as it will be in your writing, but it needs to be better than dishwashing.
Career counselling should be about gaining a conscious understanding of the skills and values you can use to build an income. Understanding something of career strategies is gold. Outcomes like that can make a substantial improvement to your income as you build a career and perhaps a business writing novels.
To me career development needs to be an investment that does much more than spit out a list of jobs you might be suited to. That might work for someone in high school or uni but not if you’ve been around the block a few times. If you have been pouring your soul into creative work, the real world understanding of the difficulties of living in an uncertain economic times need more nuanced and individualised career guidance.
An avid learner my education includes:
- a Bachelor of Arts and Honours degree in Philosophy from Murdoch University.
- 5 years of PhD research in Applied Philosophy and Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne.
- a Graduate Certificate in Career Development from the University of Queensland
- a Diploma of Counselling from Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors
You can see more about my experience and qualifications at Linkedin.