Music today comes from Australian band Woodlock. This tune, entitled Forever ago, is especially beautiful – the piano towards the end of the track is worth a listen alone.
I had someone tell me over the weekend that they’ve “started reading my little blog.” Another friend of mine recently explained to me how his Mum had told him that when she goes for walks she now “listens to his little podcast.” My question is why do people feel the need to add ‘little’ when referring to creative work? Apart from coming off as condescending it literally belittles the value of the work they’re referring to. While my blog reader went on to say some lovely things, and ultimately were just trying to show their support for my writing, the need to distance themselves from their own encouragement baffles me.
I think it comes down to the fact that working in the creative industries still isn’t considered a “real” job, or at least not until the one doing it has achieved some incredible level of success. This is, to me, absurd.
First let’s address the idea of creative work as a “real” job. My guess here is that the underlying thought is that any kind of creative output is seen to be superfluous to our survival as a species. Enjoyable for the one doing it but ultimately unnecessary to how we run as a society, with the usual argument being a made up post apocalyptic scenario where the creatives won’t survive as they have no real world skills to add in the rebuilding of civilisation. This is insane because another name for the creative industries could be the entertainment industries. While, yes, the initial purpose of any creative work is the artist having an creative itch they’re trying to scratch, the ultimate purpose is to pass the work on to the larger populace in an effort to entertain and help make sense of the world. To say this is unnecessary to how we run as a society is flat out wrong.
Just look at our current world and how desperate we all are to be entertained. Look at the mammoth, and varied, amount of entertainment content available, how quickly it gets consumed, and how often it needs to be replenished to feed the hungry masses. Look at why Netflix’s model works so well, offering up immediate and complete entertainment of a quantity you could never entirely get through. Look at why we’re all so addicted to social media. While it’s entertainment quality may not be high it’s quantity is irrefutable. Any creative out there knows you’re only as good as your last piece of work, and that you better keep producing work at an ever increasing pace and quality if you want to stay in the market. As for that fictional post apocalyptic scenario if you think people won’t want to be entertained under those conditions then you are flat out bonkers; and I’m not someone who uses the word ‘bonkers’ in vain. We’ve been telling ourselves stories and painting our histories since we first started walking upright. Creativity is now, and has always been, entirely necessary to how we run as a species and arguably a major factor to our current level of evolutionary success.
Now let’s look at the idea that you need to be successful before it can be classified as a real job and not just a hobby. You never hear anyone ask “Human resource is more of a hobby though, right?” or “How’s your little dock working position going?” Both of those careers require you to learn on the job with the expectation that you get paid while you do so. In my mind this salary makes it a real job to the populace at large. Whereas, there is little to no support for the apprentice creative and fuck all chance of getting paid while they grow their skills. Ask any creative out there and they’ll tell you how someone has offered them “exposure” as payment for a job instead of money – “We can’t pay you but it’ll be great exposure.” The thing about exposure is it’s nice but strangely doesn’t work as currency anywhere else. You’d never expect someone to do your taxes for you “for the exposure”. At the end of the day creatives are expected to do a significant amount of work for free before they start getting paid for it. Why? Because it’s their little hobby. If someone was to leave their job to open a restaurant they would immediately be classified as a small business owner and restaurateur. If however a person was to leave a similar job in order to become an artist they would be seen less as the freelancer they are and more as a dole bludger until their creative work achieves not only a living wage but also some level of celebrity for them.
This cultural mindset behind the creative industries and the reduction of their importance is a dangerous thing for our society. The Lady Holly, a high school maths and science teacher (and my lady love), showed me this TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson. In it he makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. Basically, he says what I’m trying to say with a lot more detail and humour (it genuinely feels like stand up act at points), and with a better vocabulary. A superbly good watch.
Clearly I have some issues with how the creative industries are regarded, especially in this country, and while I don’t expect things to change anytime soon I guess for now all I’m asking is for you to question your own perception of those seeking a creative career, or at the very least stop using ‘little’ as a prefix when talking about their work.