Risk taker, shit disturber, out-of-the-box problem solver, independent dreamer, rule breaker … does that describe you? Most creatives whom I know would check off most of those qualities. And while they’re madly dancing to their own tune, life can also dish up some crushing disappointments and frustrating curve balls- that comes with the territory. I was reminded of that a few times this week when talking to new and old friends about their careers. 

Photo by Caitlin Cronenberg, 2012. Courtesy of NKPR TIFF photo studio.

“I didn’t think it would turn out like this,” one friend whispered, tears welling in her eyes. She had taken a big leap, moved from a cushy job in London, to Toronto. Sometimes you can do a mountain of research and still be surprised by the outcome. I still thought my plan to work at home was foolproof – I started my career that way – until I tried it again 20 years later. So instead of glossing over her worries, I suggested that she talk about the challenges to a like-minded friend or mentor – someone who will listen and not toss platitudes back in your lap. Every creative I know has had a similar experience – hell, I moved across the country and back in six months. 

Give yourself permission to dream big – moving to a different country (or switching career tracks) is a huge step. Just give yourself time to settle in. If things look shaky, give yourself a 30, 90, 120 day plan (or whatever time chunks that you can manage) to make changes. Today, we all want things NOW. We want our social media life to be perfect right away. Life is messy. I’ve accepted that. I don’t want to add up the money that I lost when I sold my Vancouver condo four months after I bought it. I planned to live in it for at least a year but when a terrific opportunity came up, I closed that chapter and moved on. There’s no rule that says you have to stick to your plans. Just be prepared to make a LOT of mistakes. 

Don’t stand still. Colouring outside of the lines is a skill that most of my editorial friends and colleagues possess. And now that the publishing business is morphing at breakneck speed, they’re expanding their Crayola range. Instead of patiently waiting for another plum editorial gig (as rare as a unicorn), the creative thinkers are creating content for YouTube, podcasts, niche websites or social media. They absorbed new publishing models as they came up and never stopped learning. Others have moved into retail (like me), launched public relations firms or floral styling studios – and one is now a mortgage broker. 

Most creatives I know appear to be fearless but peel back that confident surface and you’ll often find rivers of self-doubt. But it’s their ability to look and then leap while believing in themselves – no treading water – that has kept their careers (and dreams) afloat.