Undervaluing ourselves is arguably one of the most common mistakes made by creative professionals, especially when just starting out. For many, it leads to discouraging feelings and dead-ends, all of which take their toll not only on our finances and our career prospects, but on our mental and physical health as well.
With a background in art history and black cultural studies, Zakkiyyah Najeebah knows a thing or two about investing in and embracing your creative potential. As the Art Director for Black Girl In Om (which we featured recently through its founder, Lauren Ash), a photographic artist, a documentarian, a content curator, a brand consultant and an independent film artist, Zakkiyyah believes in practicing self-purpose and manifestation through all of her endeavors. While starting with confidence wasn’t always easy, it was only by taking that leap — and embracing all she had to offer to the world — that she was able to find success and use her voice to help others and herself.
Today, Zakkiyyah is joining us to encourage intention, and inspire us to take more ownership of our lives with her essay on embracing your creative potential. –Sabrina
When I first came to the realization that I was capable of utilizing all of my creative assets, I was furthermore compelled to take the risk of employing them to my advantage — and for my overall well-being. I will admit, it’s scary to take the leap and set your heart on a creative path, but those who can testify to their success and happiness will tell you it’s worth it! What I’ve embraced about being creative is that you have control over how you use your creative energy and what you’re using it for. I’m not exactly where I’d like to be professionally (or financially), but doors have been opening up for me and opportunities have been presenting themselves left and right! It takes faith, resilience, and confidence to claim your own path, especially creative endeavors. They can be risky.
There are assumptions I’m constantly met with about taking the creative path, which ultimately seek to de-validate creative labor. This can be a struggle or a discouragement for some of us, especially if you’re working in various practices. I’ve listed a few of these assumptions that I’m sure a lot of us have had to deal with in regards to coming to terms with our creative potential. I hope my advice in response to these assumptions will encourage you to follow and completely embrace your creative potential.
“It’s risky to be a full-time creative or artist.”
Yes, it can be risky to become a full-time artist or creative… It’s actually a risk of everything! You’re risking the stability of a 9-5 job or consistent income when you first begin, which can be a challenge (we all have bills that [we can’t] escape, and don’t get me started on student loans). You’re risking not knowing what’s on the other side and being met with challenges and adversity. But ultimately, if you don’t take risks for the things you want and your creative dreams, you risk not living out your fullest potential and actually being a full-time creative! Here are some questions to consider before taking that leap of faith; preparation for any decision is key:
- What exactly are my creative intentions?
- How will I utilize my creative energy?
- What community or group of individuals will support me in my decision?
There are so many of us who have taken risks, and taking a risk to follow my dreams 24/7 has been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself — but before I delved into anything I set forth a plan (asking myself similar questions).
My advice: Take the risk, and DO IT with strong and meaningful intentions.
“You’re all over the place, you need to focus on one thing to be successful.”
I’m sure A LOT of us have heard this one before. For most people, focusing on one practice can be a strength and their key to success. For many creative individuals, focusing on one thing can be limiting and suffocating. I’ve come to the realization that there are multiple interests I have, gifts and abilities that must be practiced and used. Yes, I will admit… It can be overwhelming working on several projects at once, but for a lot of creative people this opens up so many doors for opportunities and exploration. This is why our millennial generation of creatives is so compelling to me! We live in an era in which we define our own creative practices on our own terms, and have various forms of income and engagement. We are no longer highly pressured to choose just “one career,” and like many of us creative risk-takers, I’ve never worked well in narrow environments or spaces in which I have to carve out just one practice. I work and can cultivate more of my creative energy focusing on multiple projects. My work with Black Girl In Om as an Art Director has actually informed the way I organize my other work around photography, curatorial practices, and brand creative consulting.
I believe it was Emilie Wapnick who used the term “multipotentialite” in a TED Talk last year, to evaluate the placement of those who have multiple talents and career exercises. I embrace the term “multipotentialite” because it emphasizes the spirit of contemporary creatives who are redefining and reworking what it means to activate creative labor, as well as success.
“You can’t make a living.”
As we engage more with the rise and notoriety of a creative entrepreneurial culture, more of us are practicing our “multipotentialite”abilities (or superpowers, as I’d like to call them) and realizing that the opportunities are endless. I don’t just identify strictly as an “art director.” When I’m approached about what I do for a living, I can respond to someone as such: “I’m an art director for an online publication and brand, but I also curate for other artists, I work on film projects, I freelance in brand/creative consulting, and engage with photographic image making.”
I find it quite compelling and empowering now, rather than fearful, that I don’t have one “set” career path. I acknowledge my multiple creative endeavors with confidence and a sense of ownership, while recognizing that these operate as various streams of income. I also concluded that my various experiences will ultimately benefit me in the creative career market. I have mentors and individuals that I’m connected to who have shown me that it’s quite possible to be “all over the place” and still be just as focused and successful! For any creative, I always advise the presence of a mentor or distant mentor that will motivate your intentions and be an example to what you can achieve and more. Networking is also KEY! It’s essential to get out and connect with people who are doing the work you’re seeking to fit into your reality and manifestations. I’m now beginning to live out my dreams of curating simply because I have maintained a meaningful connection with someone in the field who has experience. You’d be surprised at who is willing to guide and further support your ambitions.
Remember that in the end, YOU’RE living out your life, not someone else. Be creative and take ownership of your potential. I’m still navigating my own creative journey, while also accepting the challenges I’m met with. Nonetheless, I’m extremely happy with my choices and feel confident that I’ll live out my dreams — because in a lot of ways, I already am.