Shike’s FB post really hit home for me, and I wanted others to gain some perspective from what he said, and so I decided to also ask other creative folk I know and have always admired to share their experiences and wisdom gained in their respective fields. Enjoy.
Shike Olsen Gaborone
Media maven, photographer, music video producer and director, father to Cookie, maverick.
As a 42-year-old working in the creative industries in Botswana these are the most valuable things I’ve learnt so far (they’ve also kept me sane!)
1. You’re not a master of anything. Titles only serve to feed arrogance and your ego is the biggest barrier to learning. You continue to learn until you’re dead. Aspire to transcend. This is a word that has come up in conversations with artists as diverse as Rupert Ati Lavenderand Don Moss.
2. Don’t be too precious with your art. Let the world see it. Some will love it, some will hate it, the fact that it brings a reaction means someone cares.
3. Seek collaborations. Creative input is awesome. [It] allows you to step away and look at your work from a fresh perspective and bringing skills you may not have to the table is a great way to learn and infuse passion into your work.
4. Up your skills. The basis of your craft is your skills. In a world where technology greatly influences creativity, it is important to continuously learn. Social media and the w.w.w [World Wide Web] offer a wealth of knowledge and free things to help develop your skills.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t understand. Imagine missing out on opportunity because you were too proud to ask a simple question.
6. Grow a thick skin. You are not a piece of fish.
7. Smile and be the reason someone else smiles. We’re all having a shit day, and personally I don’t want a part of yours.
Neo Maditla Cape Town
I spent about two years as a freelance writer in Johannesburg and those were probably the hardest two years of my life, financially. I had left my job as a journalist in Cape Town and moved back home to Pretoria so I could finish my journalism degree. My sister was unemployed at the time and my dad had just retired, so I went from living my best life in Cape Town to being responsible for my whole family on a freelancer’s salary. It was really humbling.
But that experience taught me how to negotiate my rates. Up until then, I just accepted that publications paid only a certain amount. But then I found out that some of my friends were being paid more by the same publications. So I quickly learned to negotiate and to chat to my friends who were also freelancers about money, because that was the only way to find out if we were being played.
So my advice would be to always refuse to be paid less than what you deserve. But this means that you have to bring your A game too and the best way to improve as a writer is to read other dope writers, whether it is books or articles. Try to read more than you write.
Neo Maditla is Editor-in-Chief of designindaba.com.
Philippa Kabali-Kagwa Cape Town
What I know about writing and the creative process in my life:My creative work – writing, singing, storytelling – centers me. When I am consistent with my creative work, I am able to accomplish more in other aspects of my life. This is why I write.
1. My creative work – writing, singing, storytelling – centers me. When I am consistent with my creative work, I am able to accomplish more in other aspects of my life. This is why I write
2. I have learnt to tell the story that is asking to be told; to let it lead me to where it wants to go.
3. When you start, just write. Let it flow. As it starts to take shape, the editing process will begin
4. Writing and editing are two different parts of the process that happen iteratively. When you are writing, write. There will be time to edit – again, and again, and again. When you are editing, edit. There will be time to write.
5. Be open to inspiration. Look intensely. See the colours, the shapes, the people around you. Breathe deeply. Take is the smells and fragrances. Savour the tastes. Feel the textures around you. And then when you write, let the reader experience them like you did.
6. Paint pictures with your words. Let the readers see what you see
7. Pay attention to the detail and to the big picture. One is not more important than the other. They are just different. The detail is the building blocks, and the big picture gives you perspective.
8. It’s okay to fail. Infact, you will fail. What matters is that you pick yourself up, nurse your wounds and move on.
9. Remember creativity is both a very individual process and a social process. Keep a creative circle around you that is both challenging and supportive; that will tell you the truth; that will listen with interest and be clear.
10. All of the above and more.
Philippa Kabali-Kagwa’s memoir Flame and Song is published by Modjadji Books in South Africa, with an East African edition published by Sooo Many Stories.
Tawonga Taddja Nkhonjera Blantyre
Honestly, in retrospect, I am ashamed of my efforts thus far. When you think [about it] Malawi is tailor-made for film and for filmmakers to thrive. After visiting a number of film festivals, meeting filmmakers from different countries with different styles of expression, I realised that what matters is the story and how you tell it. Now, Malawi has endowment in abundance making filmmaking the easiest job in the whole world. The natural beauty, the light and the colours, the untold stories, the novelty of film – it leaves us with myriad options. [We also have] the most innately gifted and talented actors. All these make storytelling easier albeit with the most basic equipment. We have the mysteries of Africa, the enigmatic nature of our cultures and their customs, and the advantage that almost all our stories have never been told. If I were to say something to an aspiring filmmaker, it’s that even a 3-minute film can get you into the business, if you do it right. The trick is to have an expression, and stick with it. The flower doesn’t go to the bee.
Novuyo Rosa Tshuma Houston
Writer. Rebel. New Houstonian. Always Arguing with the World.
Expect a lot of struggle. Struggle energetically and enthusiastically on the page, struggle boldly, struggle the stories that matter to you into existence; this is the enjoyable struggle, a meaning-making struggle, a meaningful struggle. There will be other, frustrating struggles, like struggling to help your work make its way into the world. A stiff drink and a strong bond of writer-friends — your tribe — will see you through this kind of struggle. Keep the stiff drink handy and your counsel few. The industry is small and the gossips plenty.
Novuyo Rosa Tshuma’s book House of Stone is slated for a 2018 release by WW Norton (US), Atlantic Books (UK)
Palesa Mkwanazi Joburg
Makeup artist obsessed with lip gloss and kpop.
Freelancing in makeup is like freelancing in any field, not easy. You’re responsible for your own employment so marketing yourself is the most important thing and something I’m still learning to do.
Make sure you have business cards. It seems old-fashioned but they’re a quick and effective way of making sure people have your contact details.
We can’t all pay for pro websites from jump so being on social media can help you get new clients, so get on FB, Insta or Twitter.
Update your portfolio, especially if you don’t have a website. An updated portfolio will help you look more professional.
Be patient and don’t let the weeks where you don’t have work discourage you.
Makeup isn’t a stagnant field so make sure you’re always practising new techniques. One of the ways I try to do this is looking at the work my favourite makeup artists and photographers are doing. They’re great inspo.
Youtube: Palesa Mkwanazi
Facebook: Palesa Mkwanazi Artistry
Leagan Phillips-Laws Cape Town
Actor, musician and playwright.
To survive and flourish as a performing artist, in an industry where roughly 80 percent of its workforce is unemployed at any given time, you need to have a special set of skills. And none of them you can learn in school.
1. Crocodile skin. Artists of all stripes face rejection and critique on a daily basis, so developing a thick skin is essential. On average, new actors have a strike rate of 1 in 25 auditions. That means, 24 rejections before you book a job.
2. Always be willing to learn. Those 24 rejections? Growth opportunities. Instead of walking out of an awful audition chastising yourself, ask how you can improve. Do you have to do more character development? Do you have work harder on your pitching? Every job that you don’t get is an opportunity to hone your craft.
3. Tenacity. The people who make it in this very competitive industry are ones who just keep working. For years. Non-stop. This industry will demand so much from you personally. You will miss birthdays and weddings and anniversaries. You have to decide whether this is for you or not, because there are no maybes. And if you decide you want to be an actor, musician or dancer, you have to work tenaciously to make it. And even then it’s not guaranteed.