Welcome back! Last month’s summer holiday for the blog was much-needed, and I’m feeling full of energy for the rest of the season now, which is fantastic.
While I was taking a break from the blog I found myself taking more time to listen to various podcasts – especially when I was on the train travelling around the country. I find it inspiring to hear how other people see the world, and how they navigate their own creative careers. One episode – on the 21st Century Creative – was so relevant and helpful that I got out my notebook and made notes right there on the tube. It was an interview with Gabriela Pereira, writer and founder of DIY MFA, an alternative to traditional post-graduate degrees for writers who don’t have the time or the money to enrol in a formal degree programme. She talked passionately about creative people taking their own education into their own hands, taking responsibility for and control of your learning and development.
In the interview Gabriela outlined the 3 elements of a writing practice that they use to structure the DIY MFA. It struck me that these elements apply to all creative disciplines and that if we just tweak the wording a little, then there are lots of helpful insights that we can learn from this approach. Here there are:
Input – Gather with Purpose
In DIY MFA land the main input is ‘reading’. Gabriela calls this aspect ‘Read with Purpose’ but I’m going to change this to ‘Gather with Purpose’ for general creative practices. This is everything that you do as a creative person to feed your creative well, to nourish your creativity. It is a mindful and curious practice. As well as being research, the gathering of inspiring influences, input also covers your professional development, the skills building you need to do to make your work and make it well.
Output – Create with Focus
For the DIY MFA the output is assumed to be writing and as such is called ‘Write with Focus’, but for our more general creative practices I’m calling this ‘Create with Focus’. This element of your creative practice is your artistic work, the things you create and produce, both the tangible and the intangible results of your creative endeavour. It is also the other assets you create for your practice or business – your website, your blog, your portfolio etc.
Build your Community
I don’t need to tweak the terms here as the DIY MFA’s ‘Build your Community’ works perfectly. This element of your practice is how you engage with the world. It is how you are working to build relationships with 3 different communities: your fellow creatives, your audience and your sector. It covers a huge range of activities you do within your practice from admin and social media to talking to people at shows/events and marketing.
Gabriela has a simple formula:
Output (Writing) + Input (Reading) + Community = MFA
So if we alter that slightly we have:
Output (Creative Work) + Input (Nourish Creativity & Skills) + Community Building = Creative Practice
Now, in the DIY MFA they’re flexible about how you approach this, and how you organise your time – which aspects you spend the most time on in a day, a week, a month. The only rule is that you should try to include activities from each element every day – don’t ignore any of them if you can help it, as each element is vital to a full and successful creative practice.
I’d like you to try doing an audit of your typical activities. Look back over all the things you got up to in July.
- Which elements (output, input, community) were most represented?
- Which elements weren’t give much time?
- Which elements would you like to work on this month?
Now, what will you do to help yourself bring these elements back into focus? Are there activities you can do, places you can visit, tasks that need attending to? Would it help to schedule specific time in your week or month for those things? Would a plan help?
Over the next few blog posts I’m going to focus on each of these elements of a creative practice and examine what they are and how we can give them the focus they deserve.