5 things I wish I’d known about a creative career by Maritsa Baksh (The Creative Pandemic)

Maritsa Baksh of QPOC publishing project The Creative Pandemic has written a guest blog for Megaphone!

I first got in touch with Leila because I applied to the mentoring scheme (Megaphone mentoring, in 2020). I didn’t win a place, but I was shortlisted. It hurt, because it was a failure, but with that failure came an opportunity. Leila offered me a zoom meeting, to chat. I didn’t know what to expect from a zoom meeting, but I agreed. 

In the meeting, Leila asked about what else I was up to, alongside my writing. I told her about my website, https://www.thecreativepandemic.com/about-us , and she listened, asked questions. She asked if the site was funded – I said no. Had I considered applying for funding – yes, I had, but the process seemed overwhelming. 

The Creative Pandemic logohttps://www.thecreativepandemic.com/about-us

From this, Leila sent me resources to help write my application. She proofread my application, put me in touch with her own network, and was there every time I had questions with encouragement and support. 

From the application I developed, I secured funding for the website, and developed a short story collection that paid qpoc writers for their work. It seems baffling that this process started with a rejection, and an offer of a zoom call. Baffling how easily I could have seen that rejection, and deleted the email. 

So, I made a list of the things I wish I knew this time last year. 

  1. Apply to everything. Even if you don’t think you’ll win, apply anyway. Even if you don’t win, or your work isn’t published, it’s the chance to open a dialogue with someone doing something you want to do. Take that chance. Sometimes it’s some feedback on your work, sometimes it’s the offer to write something freelance, sometimes it’s as simple as a zoom meeting. 
  2. Say yes to everything. Does the idea of talking with a stranger about your work fill you with dread and anxiety? Say yes anyway. Especially if it’s scary. That fear tells you where your comfort zone ends – and where you need to do some more growing.
  3. Ask questions. The people you meet can be your biggest asset. And if they seem like they want to offer advice, make it clear that you want it. Even if you don’t end up following their advice, just hear what they have to say. Share your own thoughts. Those connections are invaluable. Treat them well. 
  4. Set your work hours. Then stick to that plan. This was the biggest one for me to get right. Because I set my own hours, I could work indefinitely. And I was wildly productive – for a while. Then, inevitably, I’d crash. Set your work hours in a day, then stick to it. At the end of that time, put it away. No matter what. It’ll help you in the long run. Overworking and burning out isn’t something to strive for; it’s unhealthy, unsustainable, and other parts of your life will suffer for it. 
  5. Learn when to put it away. I want to say “Never ever give up!” but, honestly, I don’t think that’s always realistic, especially at the start. If you need to take a break from your passion project – do it. Creative work is a privilege, a joy.  When it becomes more of a chore than enjoyable – stop. Give yourself a chance to miss the writing. Come back when you’re ready to fall in love with it again.

Published by Leila from Megaphone

Writer and runs Megaphone: a writer development scheme for people of colour who want to write for children. Tweets @MegaphoneWrite and @LeilaR

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