Having one creative career is stressful enough; how about managing several at once? Lara Akinnawo speaks to Laura Dockrill, Arnold Oceng, and Kate Fox about succeeding in different disciplines...
As a creative person, it is likely that you face the issue of having multiple talents that pull you in different directions.
Speaking to artists within my personal network and beyond, I have discerned that there are two types of creative: those who narrow their focus to nurture a specific talent, and those who see no barriers in the world of creativity, making whatever they feel compelled to.
Laura Dockrill (pictured above), a writer, illustrator and performer who counts the multifaceted Tracy Emin as one of her biggest inspirations, believes that the notion of an artist having to stick to one niche is a societal one. “It’s a western thing,” she says. “People love to box and contain people; like when people freak out if an artist makes a different kind of album or a film that is different to their previous work.”
She remembers a Ghanaian artist she once worked with, who drummed, told stories and was also a dancer. “In his culture it’s not unusual to spread yourself across different platforms; if you’re creative it should be fine,” she says. “[In the UK] if you’re in art, people need to know what you do, so they know how to brand you. It’s a negative outlook.”
The fear of audience reaction seems to be a large barrier for artists who want to diversify. Arnold Oceng (above), actor and musician, gets criticism from both ends. He recalls, “I get people saying, ‘You’re an actor, what are you doing making music?’ and vice versa. But I think the best way to tackle haters is just to work and succeed.”
Comedian, journalist and poet, Kate Fox (below), also stresses the need to promote yourself within each industry. She believes that it is necessary, “to be more explicit in your self-promotion if you are something like a novelist and photographer.”
“People may distrust you if you are operating in really different creative worlds,” she warns. “You’re going to have to make equal effort in each world to network and self-promote and tick the appropriate boxes that people want you to tick.”
So is it possible to have your finger in too many pies? Multi-tasking poster boy, James Franco (a successful actor, producer, director, known also for racking up several university degrees, teaching, and working towards a PHD), has for a long time left people in awe of his extraordinary productivity.
However, this caught up with him in the form of an exceptionally poor performance as he hosted last year’s Oscars. Some critics speculated whether he was on drugs, while others concluded that he was indeed spreading himself too thinly.
“You should have a core talent that you focus on,” explains Arnold Oceng. “For me that is acting, but I’ve always had music in my life.”
Conversely, Laura Dockrill has never felt the need to be so pragmatic in picking what she does. “Whatever you fall into you should embrace it,” she suggests, “rather than blockade it. It’s just part of being a human being and having an imagination.”
It seems that the juggling of multiple crafts is a craft within itself. It is a delicate balance, between not wanting to compromise on the quality of your work, and not wanting to compromise on following your dreams. Ultimately, it’s about finding what works for you, and not allowing your workload to work against you.
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