Training wheels off!

Ever since I submitted my PhD in December, I’ve allowed myself to go through a necessary and needed transformation. The PhD mind-set was intense for me, not just because of the amount of mental work involved with a PhD and birthing a major creation, but also because of all the career-building work I did at the same time.

In 2004 (six years ago!), I started a blog on cross-media entertainment. It was a time when cross-media was well known in the marketing industries (integrated marketing practices being the ancestor of such endeavours). I worked hard to share what I was discovering about the area, as it emerged with force in franchises, independent arts, publishing, and around the world. I did hundreds of talks and articles and blog posts, worked 7 days a week, 10 hours a day. Hard yards.

But I had a personal mission. I took on the PhD because I wanted to know everything I could about the area (not just what I was limited to with my own creative explorations), I also wanted to discipline my mind to focus on one project long-term, and thought academia may be a good back-up career. Ha!

I saw a PhD as different to all other types of schooling. In my research-based approach, this meant I didn’t go to classes or had to recapitulate what I was taught. A PhD is meant to be about contributing original thought. But then something happened in my final few months of writing my PhD. I realised that I couldn’t write whatever I wanted. I was being assessed. I had to write a thesis that showed I can research, engage in critical thought, and execute a rigorous argument. These skills are not the faint-hearted (many think being an academic means just referring to theories — which is incorrect).

So, I took out much of what I wanted to talk about, things which I was passionate about but which I couldn’t execute as yet in the manner needed for a thesis to be assessed on. I consoled myself by promising that after I submitted it, I could write about whatever I wanted, wherever I wanted.

But the state of postponing myself has lingered. It has lingered because although I’ve now finished it (I’m just waiting on the examiner reports and then I will put it online), I’m not in a position to do what I want to. That is, I’m not rolling in the cash I need to create the big projects I want too. I have the time now, but not the resources.

I panicked. Although I believe great things can happen, I realised that I couldn’t bank on what might happen, I had to act. What to do therefore? I’ve been offered some amazing jobs in industry and academia. Jobs that would give me lots of money, have me working with amazing people on large-scale projects worldwide. But I don’t want to go straight into being an employee. That is part of the reason for the PhD, it was part of a long-term plan to be my own boss. And the most important thing…I would be postponing doing my own creative projects for another couple of years.

So, I then thought about the business ideas I have. Beyond the transmedia consulting and public speaking that I continue to do, I have ideas for producing online services that can help the transmedia ecology and hopefully bring me a consistent income beyond my consulting. This income I use to produce my own creative projects. I just need to create these services and then I’ll be able to do the projects I want to do.

I crashed. I cannot keep putting myself off. Time is ticking and I haven’t done any of things I wanted to do in my life yet. I have things I want to say. Personal visions, ways of seeing the world I want to bring into reality. When will it be okay to do so? How many consulting jobs must I do before I have enough of a reputation and money to do what I want to do? How long do I have to “position” myself to appeal to people who will pay for my services, before I can just be me?

Then I saw this quote. It is by artist Jonathan Harris who has some insights online from a talk he gave:

You will become known for doing what you do. This may sound obvious, but it is a useful thing to realize. Many people seem to think they must endure a “rite of passage” which, once passed, will allow them to do the kind of work they want to do. Then they end up disappointed that this day never comes. Find a way to do the work you want to do, even if it means working nights and weekends. Once you’ve done a handful of excellent things in a given way, you will become known as the person who does excellent things in that given way. And that’s the person you want to be, because then people will hire you to be that person.

Of course. 🙂 It helps to be reminded of such things. And so now my heart is at rest. I will continue to explore my services and do my consulting (which I love) because they are expressions of me. But I’m not going to wait any longer to get the money I need to create the projects I want to do. I’ll use whatever media I have available to me and write anyway. If it means I have many unproduced scripts sitting on my desk when I die, so be it. At least I would of brought them into the world, one blueprint at a time. From training wheels to blueprints, sounds like a plan of action.

Thank you training wheels, for taking me this far. It is now time for me to live on my own.

Photo of my late mum and I