It’s easy to get distracted by the successes of others, and see their stories as another reason why this sort of thing will never happen for you, after all, you want their career and so far your life hasn’t emulated theirs, so obviously that’s it. It’s not worth trying because clearly, it’s never going to happen.
A recent article in The Guardian looks at the big break of a mixture of different people working in creative fields, including Grayson Perry, Caitlin Moran, Ken Loach and more. Each of them describe their first job – perhaps to show that their first foray into the world of work wasn’t at their Auntie’s newspaper, or a bit part in their father’s film, or whatever it is that all those posh famous people get up to. They’re kind of just like you after all, so maybe your attempts won’t be met with utter failure after all.
In most cases though, the old adage that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know seems to ring true. Most of the people included in the piece met someone who recognised their talent and encouraged them or gave them a job. I think the article was supposed to be uplifting – look, all these people are successful now and some of them even had jobs before in places like Bejams and WHSmiths! Amazing. Well, yeah, if you reckon. But along with being talented, they also had a hefty dose of luck that led to them meeting the right person at the right time. I’m not saying they didn’t have to work hard, but there don’t seem to be any cases were it was down to sheer hard work and perseverance alone.
The message the article left me with was that however hard you work, if you don’t find that person who can, and is willing, to take you somewhere, then it’s going to be a long hard slog to obscurity. Of course, the more you put yourself out there, the more you increase your chances of being seen by that magic pixie of destiny. But with funding for the arts getting squeezed from every angle, there are less and less people with the ability to help you. So there we are, the money and connections are always going to win out. I’m not poor or disadvantaged, but I’m also not Benedict Cumberbatch or Eddie Redmayne. Even Amy Winehouse went to a performing arts school, and that’s not exactly cheap. Yep they’re all (or were, sad face) crazy talented, but they go their big break because they were in the right place at the right time. And if you or your family can afford to pay for that privilege, it’s a lot easier. I can afford to work part time to concentrate on trying to write stuff (with wildy varying degrees of success or otherwise) so I’m already a few rungs higher up on the ladder than someone who doesn’t have the same resources.
The organisation Arts Emergency is trying to help people with fewer resources make their way into the arts world, and maybe this will help them get lucky. It’s sad that this initiative comes from a charity rather than the government, but it is more of the usual after all. Like I’ve said before, once or twice, the value of the arts might be less obvious than say, the oil or arms trades, but it’s real. Art is good for people, good for communities and essential for our understanding of the world, maybe even more so than science. But in a society that values property of human lives and sanity, what can we really expect? Of course, I reserve the right to backtrack completely once my big break materialises. Pretty sure it’s just around the corner…
Follow me on Twitter @SallyWJones because really, you know it makes sense.