Tuesday, 27 June 2017

The Creative Life - Lynn Huggins-Cooper

I was invited to speak at an event a couple of weeks ago by the Culture Vulture, about living a creative life and making that kind of working life sustainable. When I thought about it, I have been earning my living solely as a 'creative' for twenty years this year. I feel I should have a long-service medal or at least a mug that says 'self employed.' Well, I *do* have the second...

Anyway, it made me think carefully about how I have lasted this long. Well, I have had lots of different jobs, from a part time wildlife warden at a lighthouse, to a worker in a probation hostel; a teacher, lecturer and barmaid. Then when I was teaching, I started writing educational materials after answering an advertisement in the back of the Times Ed. (little did I know I would end up writing a weekly feature for them!). Eventually, I was spending most of my time writing resources, and after I went on maternity leave for the last time, I didn't go back to teaching. I have written everything from workbooks like this:

to picture books like One Boy's War

children's  non-fiction like 43 Quintillion

to self-help books for adults like Live Organic

The key for me in making a living from writing and art has been casting my net wide, and being able to write lots of different types of things. I have written for newspapers and magazines, websites and blogs. I have written for lots of different publications, from comics to national newspapers, and I look in odd places for commissions.  I have just finished writing a book about robots and artificial intelligence for a major publisher of children's non-fiction, and I am nearly at the end of my first book in a new series for adults about heritage crafts. This 'looking in odd places' policy works for my textiles art as well as my writing. I work on funded inter-generational projects and carry out commissions for charities and businesses. 

To have this kind of  'patchwork' career is not for the faint-hearted! It can be hard sometimes, when commissioning editors don't call or funding applications fail, but it is worth the uncertainty to have a job that makes your hair crackle with excitement. I also find that one project can spark another, creatively speaking. I am writing a book about loss; I am creating textile art for an exhibition on the same theme. I love the way my creative life cross-pollinates.

The last thing I spoke about, at that talk, was not being afraid to fail. About putting myself out there; applying for opportunities, and when they sometimes do not come to fruition, feeling fed up for a bit but then moving on and trying again elsewhere. It works. It has worked for the last twenty years and I can't see it changing any time soon...so if you are considering giving up the 'day job' for a full time life of creative based work, by all means do your sums; make sure you can make it work - and then jump into a world of creativity!

Find out more about my writing life here: Book Nurture
Find out about my textiles and felting work here: Faerierealms


sara gethin said...

Thanks, Lynn, really enjoyed that. It's so hard to make a living from writing these days and I admire your attitude to it.
I started writing seriously four years ago and have only just started making a profit that doesn't go straight back into the 'travelling to book signings' pot (I've yet to get expenses paid for these). It's great to actually feel I'm earning money from what I love.
All the best with your future pitches!

LynnHC said...

Thanks so much :) Isn't it great though, doing what you love for a living? Well done for taking the leap - we need more 'bravery' :)

Chitra Soundar said...

Wow! You're prolific. I started out like that - wrote a lot of different things and then narrowed my reach - but then because of that I have a day job. Here's wishing you many more projects.