DOU­BLE LIFE

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - The Culture -

In our dig­i­tally driven age, find­ing the free time for cre­ative ex­pres­sion can be dif­fi­cult. But could another job be the an­swer? He­len Kir­wan-Taylor ex­plores the ben­e­fits of hav­ing a port­fo­lio of ca­reers.

As I type this, I note with res­ig­na­tion that I have once again dripped red acrylic paint across my key­board. This sort of thing never hap­pened be­fore I de­cided to em­bark on a new life as a “co-ca­reerist”—a per­son who does more than one thing for a liv­ing. For the past two years, I have di­vided my time be­tween jour­nal­ism and mul­ti­me­dia art. My sec­ond ca­reer came about by ac­ci­dent. I used to make art­works for friends, then I showed one to an Amer­i­can re­tailer who said, “I want to sell them.” Sub­se­quently, a gal­lerist in Lon­don sug­gested we do a show in six months. Had I not ex­pe­ri­enced years of work­ing with tight dead­lines un­der ex­treme pres­sure, I could never have done it. I now earn about as much money in my stu­dio as I do at my desk. And I am, of course, not alone. To­day, count­less peo­ple have more than one job. Many are obliged to do so to pay the bills. For oth­ers like me, how­ever, it’s about find­ing an out­let for per­sonal ex­pres­sion in an in­creas­ingly tech­nol­ogy-fo­cused world. It is not, after all, fi­nan­cial ne­ces­sity that in­spired Gwyneth Pal­trow to add food writer and busi­ness­woman to her CV, drove An­gelina Jolie to tie a hu­man­i­tar­ian string to her bow, nor, I sus­pect, in­duced Yana Peel to be­come the new CEO of the Ser­pen­tine Gallery, as well as an in­vestor, phi­lan­thropist, chil­dren’s au­thor, and CEO of the de­bat­ing fo­rum In­tel­li­gence Squared.

Psy­chol­o­gists call it an “ef­fort-driven re­ward”—the surge of sero­tonin you feel when ad­mir­ing a cre­ative task you’ve just com­pleted. “Many of us put a pas­sion on hold while mov­ing up in our ca­reers. Then, you get to mid­dle age and you feel you have to ex­press your­self,” says Dr. Hen­ri­etta Bow­den-Jones, a con­sul­tant psy­chi­a­trist spe­cial­is­ing in ad­dic­tions, who re­cently ap­plied to study for a mas­ters in cre­ative writ­ing. “It’s eas­ier for peo­ple who have al­ready achieved in one field. They have a sense of ac­com­plish­ment and, to a cer­tain ex­tent, are al­lowed to fail.” In her case, writ­ing her book af­fords her some much needed respite from the re­al­ity of her de­mand­ing med­i­cal ca­reer.

How­ever, there is more to this trend than per­sonal ful­fil­ment. Hav­ing sev­eral jobs may mean you be­come bet­ter at ev­ery­thing you do. Josephine Fair­ley, co-founder of Green & Black’s or­ganic choco­late, is a se­rial en­tre­pre­neur and jour­nal­ist who is evan­gel­i­cal about the ben­e­fits of hav­ing a port­fo­lio of ca­reers. “The so­lu­tion to one work prob­lem of­ten comes when I’m fo­cused on some­thing dif­fer­ent,” she says. “When I took time off, I found I was bored and bor­ing.”

“Creativ­ity is com­bin­ing things that weren’t com­bined be­fore,” ex­plains Robert Root-Bern­stein, a pro­fes­sor of phys­i­ol­ogy at Michi­gan State Univer­sity, and also an au­thor and a pro­fes­sional artist. “There­fore, creativ­ity re­quires more than one line of ex­per­tise.” He ar­gues that the “co-ca­reerist” brings the skills from one job to the other. Most notably, it’s the imag­ing, ab­stract­ing, and body think­ing—us­ing sen­sa­tion, emo­tions, as well as anal­y­sis—themes ex­plored in his book Sparks Of Ge­nius, writ­ten with his wife Michele, a cre­ative writ­ing and his­tory lec­turer, au­thor, and haiku poet.

Cer­tainly, I find that the more time I spend on my art, the more fluid my writ­ing be­comes. As a jour­nal­ist, I’m used to every­body want­ing to talk to me. As an artist, I have to make four calls for one that is re­turned. Con­se­quently, I’ve grown a thicker skin and have more tenac­ity. When writ­ing gets stress­ful, I dream of my stu­dio. When an art­work isn’t turn­ing out as I want it to, I seek so­lace at my com­puter. Jour­nal­ism can be done on de­mand; art re­quires the right mind­set. In both sides of my life, I no longer pro­cras­ti­nate (be­cause that means go­ing back to the other job, and noth­ing fo­cuses the mind more than hav­ing a pay­ing client).

Of course, there are sac­ri­fices to be made. I struc­ture my life to be up early, so that re­quires less so­cial­is­ing, and I work week­ends and hol­i­days. I stop if I’m tired, but that rarely hap­pens—switch­ing worlds makes one feel fresh and new.

Gwyneth Pal­trow adds food writer to her port­fo­lio

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