Being professional can be summarised as a combination of ‘being well prepared’ and ‘being a decent human’.
When is a survey not a survey? Perhaps when it’s designed by two creative writers and asks you questions such as ‘What’s your professional superpower?’ rather than ‘which of these two brands do you prefer?’.
Our terrifyingly long online survey on creative professionalism (21 questions, yet still answerable in 15 mins) gathered responses from 71 individuals worldwide. We asked you for help and you delivered- thank you people of the internet.
A majority of you said in your feedback that you’d be curious to know what our results are. It’s a complex thing to share as this was feeding into a year of different R&D activities and in itself was a test of format as much as a way of gathering responses. We can’t simply publish the full data set as it in some cases it would compromise the anonymity of the lovely people who took the time and effort to share their experiences with us. However, here are some of our highlights:
Across the different questions there was a general agreement that, in the creative arts, the important thing is to focus on finding one’s own expression of professionalism, rather than doing things in order to look a certain way for other people.
Two big take-away questions from your responses were:
- How do I work out what depletes/restores me?
- How do I work out if a project challenges, excites or inspires me?
We also all had slightly different notions of what professionalism constituted. There was a sense of ambiguity about the word ‘professional’ linked to it being a commercial framework. For other people, it was about personal attitude to things such as plagiarism, punctuality, quality of process.
Unsurprisingly, the question of fair pay stalked throughout the answers. On top of that, the importance of being valued for the work we produce in a way that goes beyond (but also includes) money. How do we value our time? How do we take our responsibilities seriously? How do we sustain ourselves, balancing personal and professional lives? How do we maintain the integrity of our work and our sense of identity alongside paying the bills this month?
As a writer, I found myself hugely jealous of the training some of the people in other disciplines engaged in, from certificates in oxy-acetalene welding to clown school, formal training as a fine bookbinder to horticultural degrees. I also loved how so many people had a formal background in science that they now applied to their professional creative practice, proving that the traditionally separate areas are in fact linked by a love of observation and attention to detail.
Your informal training highlighted the importance of keeping an open mind and continuing to enjoy learning new approaches. It turns out we’re all massively vulnerable and there’s no such thing as a quick fix: you have lost your resilience at multiple points during your careers so far, and found support networks – formal and informal- invaluable for keeping going. Also other activities such as cooking, walking, dancing (when these aren’t a part of your regular practice).
My favourite question-we-should-have-asked-you-but-didn’t was ‘What project are you not yet courageous enough to attempt?’. I also love every person unconditionally who thanked us for the questions (either in the survey responses themselves or in a separate email) and told us that they’d found the process of answering them to be helpful.
Our year of R&D is starting to draw to a close. If you are one of the survey respondents, watched one of our online broadcasts, came to our talks in person or have been quietly following our progress on Twitter/Instagram, this blog, our Spreadsheets & Moxie website or Sarah’s blog, and want to tell us what impact our project has had for you (big or small! Great or terrible!) then we’d love to include that in our evaluation: get in touch before June 15th.