A digital designer shares how to take steps toward being a full-time creative
Fanning the flames of your creative fire.
By Saloni Doshi, Contributor
If you are someone who has a creative fire, consider it a huge blessing. You know what makes you feel alive and what brings you joy, and that fire will guide you towards creating a meaningful and happy reality for yourself. I can say this with confidence because I am someone who has that creative fire within me! Currently, I work full-time as a digital designer at an advertising agency. Every day, I am fortunate enough to wake up in the morning and spend the day doing what I love — design.
Getting to this point in my journey wasn’t always easy, but the effort has been incredibly worth it. I’ve learned so much, and today, I would love to share 4 things I learned about building and elevating a full-time career as a creative.
1. Introspection is powerful. Take time to understand yourself, as a person and as a creative.
Creatives are naturally high-achievers. Every creative I have met or worked with is driven, and this is a reason why I absolutely love my career path. However, if you don’t know where to go, you can’t aim — low or high.
Creatives thrive when there is some clarity on next steps, because action leads to inspiration.
Just the act of “doing something” can lead to new information and new stimuli, which help inspire creativity and new ideas!
This begs the question: What do you do when you have so much creative excitement, but you don’t actually know what to do or where to use it?
Introspection is an amazing activity to pave pathways for that clarity and inspiration. Through it, you can locate where to move and discern how to aim. It also helps in accessing inner peace, which has an impact on professional performance.
The clearness you will receive from cultivating a habit of introspection will pay so many dividends, such as: understanding what you want from your life and career, learning how to optimize for your creativity and happiness, and developing a strong sense of self worth.
I myself introspect regularly and deliberately to recognize the following things:
- The people in my life who bring me joy
- The creative practices and habits that keep me inspired and balanced
- The fears I am running away from
- The kind of person I want to be and the type of future I want to build
- The short-term and long-term goals I want to achieve
- The passion projects I am interested in
- The places where I have to pivot any thoughts, feelings, or goals based on changes in my surroundings
Most importantly, the act of introspection allows me to write my own definitions of success that I can strive to achieve and embody.
It gives me the vision to become the person I want to be — personally and professionally. I am provided with some direction on where to aim or how to adjust. I feel more calm and efficient at work. As creatives, we naturally spend a lot of time in our heads. If you want to pursue a full-time career as a creative, consider getting to know your mental space for a happy personal life and a rich professional life!
2. Own your story and commit to writing it yourself. If you handed your pen to society, take it back. That pen is yours.
Ask yourself this question: Do you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?
I always knew I loved creating. However, for most of my life before I graduated from college, I ran into many people — across multiple generations — who had their own ideas of a “successful” or financially viable career for a South Asian. With an older brother in medicine, close friends pursuing healthcare, and peers with internships at companies like Deloitte, Tesla, and Facebook, I constantly dreaded career conversations with people. Oftentimes, I felt that I was not taken seriously.
I was blessed with some people in my life who were extremely supportive of me, but society as a whole taught me to feel insecure and insignificant.
I gave society the pen to my story by pursuing a degree and jobs that had nothing to do with my dreams, and used free-time and late nights to nurture the creative in me. With time, I knew that I had to pursue a full-time creative career. All I wanted was to wake up and be creative all day, every single day. So, I began zoning in on myself and charting my own path. I felt genuinely happy in my life the moment I stopped caring that I was different from everyone else.
photo credit: Saloni Doshi
I cannot stress the value in owning who you are. George R.R. Martin illustrated this concept beautifully in Game of Thrones:
“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”
The beauty of life is experienced by those who believe in themselves and proudly share their own stories with society — rather than letting society write for them. For me, creativity has always been the thesis to my story. I encourage you to think about your story and to take pride in it!
Also, I promise: your aunt’s-cousin’s-wife’s opinion on your creative career does not matter! In the short and long run, you will be infinitely happier listening to yourself and to the people who genuinely care about you and your dreams.
3. Plan well enough to articulate your desires, but start even if you don’t feel ready.
I’ve never forgotten these words from my older brother: “Thinking about something is not the same thing as doing something.”
When I read my old journals, I see so many entries about “redesigning my life.” Or some “personal steps to build my creative identity”. Or thoughts on “how I am going to be different this year.” In the past, I would get so caught up in thinking about becoming a creative, that I never actually became a creative. However,
I started seeing success in my career growth when I stopped planning so much and started doing more — even if I didn’t feel completely ready.
The reality is that pursuing, maintaining, and elevating a creative career takes so much courage. Any first step is so scary, and you probably will rarely feel truly ready — to be honest, I rarely have.
So yes, ensure that you do your research. Create some structure around your hustle, even if it's just bare bones. Planning will give you the confidence to express yourself and gain support from people in your life, such as your parents, friends, managers, and coworkers. The work you put in will help with interviewing, networking, project acquisitions, promotions — the list goes on.
While planning is important, it is very easy to get too comfortable in it. Instead of waiting around for that “perfect moment.” to move forward, create your perfect moment! At a certain point, dive directly into your goals and have faith in yourself.
If you have an innate creative fire, you also have the intuition to know to keep it going, even if you don’t realize it now.
All you need to do is to just start. And take pride in yourself for having the strength to take steps forward.
4. In your personal time, explore creative hobbies that are unrelated to your career.
I am a huge believer in work-life balance, but I am an even bigger believer in work-life assimilation. Work and life naturally impact each other. Therefore, the actions you choose to engage yourself in outside of your job ultimately affect your performance and happiness at work — and vice versa.
As creatives, we need to watch the way we spend time outside of work because we are, unsurprisingly, addicted to creating. We love what we do, and oftentimes want to invest time in doing it outside of work too. For example, I do digital design at work, and sometimes enjoy creating motion graphics or illustrations outside of work. Both fall within the realms of what I do from 8:30 AM - 5:30 PM every day.
While this is so meaningful and beneficial for a number of reasons, including skill-building, freelancing and just pure joy, I want to stress the value of rest. Science shows the importance of sleep because downtime gives your brain a break to learn, reset, adapt, and process. The same thought can be applied to resting the creative sides that you use in your full-time role. Resting will help you feel refreshed and in the long run, it will actually help foster innovative ideas that you can successfully apply at work.
photo credit: Saloni Doshi
However, activating your creative energy outside of work is still very important, so I strongly suggest exploring creative activities that are unrelated to your professional role. Personally, I love embroidery, doing mehndi/henna, and playing the piano. The creator in me is happy, while the designer in me is getting some well-deserved rest.
Activating creativity in a variety of contexts will help keep you sharp — and these divergent energies actually positively impact each other, ultimately increasing your own performance — especially at work!
About — Saloni Doshi is a digital designer based in Atlanta, Georgia. She works full-time at an advertising agency, designing for a variety of well-known Healthcare and Consumer brands. As a creative and a woman of color, she is very passionate about encouraging others to follow their career aspirations and discover their personal ambitions, while staying true to who they are as individuals. She also loves supporting D&I initiatives and local artists. When she’s not designing something, you can find her playing the piano, cooking new foods, or practicing Spanish to build her fluency. Find her work at www.salonidoshi.com and follow her on Instagram @salonidoshi_!