How a creative side hustle can change your life

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How a creative side hustle can change your life​


Lucy Clayton explores how satisfying it can be to reinvent yourself (and your career) through craft
By Lucy Clayton
19 April 2024
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Lucy on a course in the props workshop at Pinewood Studios
My friend Miranda has just published her debut, How To Be Somebody Else and naturally, I think it’s brilliant because we have been friends for decades. But the reviews are now in, and they prove everyone else thinks it’s brilliant too. The book is described as an “uncoming of age” story and I’m obviously not going to explain why and spoil what is an essential read for you all (available at all good bookshops etc) but part of what makes it compelling is that it is so refreshing to read about experiment, risk and reinvention from the perspective of a fully-fledged grown-up. Because the unsettling but ultimately romantic reality, is that starting out doesn’t just happen once, in our box-fresh early 20s; it can happen again and again, each iteration evolving from (or completely rejecting) the last, and each version containing the potential for the adventure of a lifetime.
Miranda and I did in fact come of age together, so I got to experience that with her too. We met as graduatess at a London ad agency. Our first day coincided with the agency summer party, where we were welcomed by a troop of Brazilian dancers, clad in feathers and thongs and brandishing viciously alcoholic drinks. It was an inauspicious start to our first proper job and it set the tone quite accurately for the rest of our careers. In that business, there’s a whole department called 'Creative' and in those days, it was widely agreed that no good ideas were ever allowed to come from anywhere else. The whole system would collapse if an Account Man (like me) had a cohesive, captivating thought beyond selling the ad and taking everyone out for larks afterwards. As a consequence of this ruthless division of labour, I sometimes struggle to take myself seriously as a creative, even all these years later, as if I can’t possibly be credible, because I started life in a department with a different name. I know this is ludicrous and I should let it go, but I think our sense of self can be formed rather severely in the early stages of our career and for me, the lingering sense that I should put down the Sharpie and let someone better qualified do the drawing still haunts and undermines me if I let it.


And yet, I am part of a growing number of people who, after long careers doing God knows what, are starting again, in the pursuit of a purely creative endeavour. Of craft. Rather than downing tools, we are picking them up, sometimes for the first time since adolescence. And as someone who is of an age that I’m not prepared to be specific about here in writing, I’m personally delighted by this trend for debut talent from a non-debut demographic.
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Why craft is good for the soul: creatives on how it has changed their lives
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Culture’s obsession with the cult of youth focuses on the thrill of the new, but what about the thrill of the actually quite old and experienced? Yes, we're more tired. More cynical, perhaps (although thinking about it, no one was more cynical than my teenage self and I suspect I was not alone here) but also considered, reflective and practised. There’s a refinement, both of skills and perspective, that comes as a bonus free gift with age, and which definitely compensates for some of the more visible, but less lovely developments (most of which I try to laser off anyway to be completely honest).