Being a Creative Independent (2/4): What it Means

I’d like to make an observational comparison. If you know me you know that most of my time is actually taken up by serving coffee/tea/food. It’s my day job and I enjoy it. It’s what keeps me afloat financially and I like to think I’m good at it.

What this also means is that I like to visit other places that do the same thing, or rather I like to visit the people. This comparison is between Independent Creatives and Independent cafes. There’s been an ever increasing amount of them pop up over past years and they are something I’m quite fond of.

When I visit an independent cafe the one thing I like to see is the owner behind the counter. The owner working hard and setting an example to their staff or to their customers. The reason I like to see this is that I like to see the passion behind the product. Even if they’re not the best at what they’re doing, I like to see them trying, learning and improving at their skill with each visit I make.

What ultimately puts me off is when I don’t see or stop seeing the owner. Now this can be for a couple of reasons which are completely understandable. 1) There’s too much work that needs to be done behind the scenes in order for the shop to run and to support their staff or 2) They’ve discovered new ways to make even more money and leave the shop to it’s own devices to go and start making more money rather than delivering their product.

The latter although still independent, I start to drift away from. Despite however many hipsters they’ve got working behind the counter, the latter I see as business. I completely understand that opening and running a cafe is a business, and that you have to be business minded in order to open and run it effectively; however I’d like to imagine that in an ideal world can’t someone open a cafe and be content with the success which allows them to meet financial needs at home rather than constantly search for the next money making venture in order to make even more of a profit?

It’s also extremely rare to find staff as passionate about the product as the owner. The staff may appear to be and act as if they are but at the end of the day they are there to get paid.

I’ve diverged from the point a little here I understand, but being an independent creative is about using your own passion and skills to set an example and to show to those around you. We each have a skill set and being independent is about using this to the best of your abilities and showing others what we have and what we can do or what we want to say; not by using other people to get the job done, and not by looking to be like other standard models (ie. what’s ‘hip’ at the time). We’ve all seen it. The producer that just makes dubstep, the producer that just makes hip hop, the producer that just makes drum and bass, or just makes IDM (the list goes one). There’s nothing wrong with these producers if they have their own sound and take on the genre, but many of them don’t. They’ve affixed themselves to a genre and bound themselves to a set of rules that are rarely broken. They aren’t unique (enough) to warrant being listened too, their abilities are respected, but their personality isn’t heard. Perhaps their aspirations are met but it’s still not who they are. Many people can make genre specific music by abiding to set of rules just as many people can make coffee by abiding to a set of rules, but what sets them apart?

When you walk into a cafe and see the owner their product is their living. There’s an element of care you don’t see from the other workers. If you find that element of care in the other staff members then the owner has been lucky enough to hit a gold mine; but this occurrence happens rarely. Many people apply for a job as a means to make money and that’s it. Of course they want to be happy doing what they’re doing, but as long as they’re getting paid they’re happy and content; it’s down to the owner to pay them right? When it’s the owner behind the counter you see a different mindset in action. This is their living and they could be a deep trouble if they don’t meet the standards set by themselves. That mindset transfers into their product and what they put down in front of you. You don’t see this in those who have succumbed to the love of money until they witness the dissatisfaction on the customers face for themselves (which once they’ve hit the big time they rarely do).

Being independent is about being your own voice, representing yourself and finding a way to be heard in a world where there are plenty of other people being good at what you’re trying to do also. What makes a good independent is the individuality and differences which come from your own personality, not trying to copy something from pinterest or instagram. Being different is when you don’t follow a trend. You simply be. Be independent.


Creative Depression (4/4): Find Help For Your Personal Battle

“Breaking through depression can be a very positive experience…”

Depression covers many feelings that through my own experience I would never want anyone else to feel, but at the same time it’s these feelings that make us all human. Breaking through depression can be a very positive experience when taken on in the right manner, but you need to remember to ask for help.

Depression is a very personal thing and it can of course be spoken about with others but speaking rarely leads to the real truths in order to ‘fix’ it. Said truths can simply be too hard to understand by another, or sometimes they may seem fickle or lead to a misunderstanding of the cause or seriousness of the depression. Sometimes it be so convoluted and intricate that there can’t be any understanding due to the ever changing mind-map of someones brain, it can often be hard to summarise thoughts correctly in order to tell someone about them and It takes a very smart mind to do so; this means that we don’t often speak truthfully and openly about depression. We put a mask on in order to hide it, make excuses, or simply not recognise it at all. We don’t want attention but sometimes we need to reach out for a hand in order to gain a better understanding.

“Depression is a personal battles that we fight with every weapon we can get our hands on…”

I often say to people that I like to read a lot of self help books, and this is probably why I write in the way that I do. The reason I read self help is simply for advice. 75% of that advice could be utter nonsense that doesn’t relate to me, but 25% might ring true, and lead to a self revelation that can help me to move forward. Depression is a personal battles that we fight with every weapon we can get our hands on, personally self help enables me to fight that battle perhaps in a way a pill might help another.

Ask for help in your field of work or study, as it’s common that the battles you’re facing have been fought by others in a similar way, but maybe only 25% of their experience is relevant to yours. At least you can take that 25% to ensure you make your own better.

I have no training in Clinical Depression, and these articles or any other I write are not done via official research into the subject, but simply a personal opinion on how depression can often relate to creative people.

Creative Depression (2/4): When Two Worlds Collide

“A sense of failure comes in all walks of life…”

The people I most commonly meet on a day to day basis who suffer from depression are often creatives. Now this probably isn’t an original idea but something that crossed my mind significantly after multiple conversations, however there aren’t many people who aren’t creative in some shape or form. A sense of failure comes in all walks of life: Failure to full-fill your job role, failure in a relationship or marriage, failure as a parent or a friend; all will lead to the same feelings of hopelessness we can all recognise.

I personally find that if a ‘non-creative’ person is suffering from depression that it can often be dramatic, this may be due to the fact that they are not used to it; it may be completely alien to them to feel this way as there may be less room for error in their lives. As creatives daily failure is common, as the life of a creative enables more chances for failure over achievement, and we often thrive on searching for the errors that need to be fixed in creative ways; it’s why we’re called creatives.

“When you combine that striking blow at the same time as the creatives day-to-day sense of failure it can be life threatening”

The hardest part is when the worlds of a creative and a non-creative collide, and what I mean by this is that we all have to deal with life as much as any other person. A non-creative may not deal with the sense of failure as commonly as a creative does, but that sense of failure comes like a striking blow. When you combine that striking blow at the same time as the creatives day-to-day sense of failure it can be life threatening; and I don’t say that lightly. It can be absolutely devastating when everything mounts into an uncontrollable train of thought.

“…make a decision to change…”

Being creative at this stage can be horrible, as our creative brains simply try to come up with new ideas constantly to fix the error, but not coming up with the solution you need can simply lead to a never ending spiral of hopelessness and even more depression. A starting point to this may be to make a decision to change, and recognise that for this to stop happening in the future that we need to overcome and adapt our lives for a positive outcome.

I have no training in Clinical Depression, and these articles or any other I write are not done via official research into the subject, but simply a personal opinion on how depression can often relate to creative people.

Creative Depression (1/4): The Need to Create

“…a constant nagging sense of failure…”

Creatives thrive on the need to create, and in order to create there has to be something to achieve that hasn’t already. The drive to create is a constant nagging sense of failure until you have achieved your goal, but once said goal is achieved, we constantly think of the next goal ahead; and until then the sense of failure kicks in again.

A musician like myself may write a new piece of music, and for the few minutes whilst I’m listening to that newly finished piece of music I feel amazing; but what’s next? Instead of taking time to enjoy my achievement, I have an overwhelming desire to write another new piece of music, and until that new piece of music is finished I’ll often subconsciously feel that catastrophic sense of failure.

“…we constantly seek improvement…”

This brutal cycle that many of us may recognise can be the demise of the creative. Our brains constantly think about our next steps and we constantly seek improvement, but rarely recognise how we have improved through our previous works. It’s too easy to be overly critical of ourselves by focussing on the negative rather than the positive; but these feelings can be harnessed. Depression can be adapted and converted into a creative drive in order to cease any form of creative block in the future. That overwhelming sense of failure can actually be manipulated into working for us as creatives, rather than letting it spiral into a pool of self loathing.

“…recognise your need to create…”

Taking the first step to understanding that your creative depression may simply be caused by a need to create may help you to positively change your future. I touched on this previously when talking about ‘Life Vs Creativity’, as when you recognise your need to create, you can make a decision to enable that need, and by doing so you can enable your own success as creatives in the future.

I have no training in Clinical Depression, and these articles or any other I write are not done via official research into the subject, but simply a personal opinion on how depression can often relate to creative people.

Planning Creativity (4/4): Creative Sparks

Creativity comes as you achieve your goals in new, original and fun ways. Any planning you have made may not seem creative, but the process of planning itself can become creative and lead to the creativity you seek.

Let’s put this into context…

I started the 5th Spear website as an outlet for music, but simply releasing something once or twice a year won’t encourage anyone to come back and visit the site, so I thought that by blogging I could keep you all up to date with what I’m up to.

My new creative goal became –  ‘Blog More Throughout 2017′

I planned time to research I needed to both understand why I wanted to blog and how to do it successfully. This lead to planning subjects to write about, and by planning the subjects I decided that the basis for this blog would be creativity.

Through researching creativity, thinking about my own processes and revising advice I had read in the past, I actually came up with more subjects to write about; which lead to more writing and more research… My creativity had sparked.

Already planning had worked and I was writing blog post after blog post. Within no time I had around a years worth of blog content in drafts and new titles, so I needed to plan when I would publish them…

“Each month there will be four blogs related to a subject within creativity which I will publish once a week”


“Not every month has four weeks within it; some have five”

So I started to think about what I could do with the fifth week…

“Perhaps I could release some new music then?”

Planning blogs had swiftly transformed into planning to write and release new music. I had become more creative by planning to be creative; enabling me to come up with even more new ideas.

You may be wondering however –

“How are you being creative when all you are doing is planning to be creative?”

When you have a plan that is simplified so much that it is easy to achieve, it allows you to be playful again. You are being creative by making that plan, and you are being creative by completing it. The only thing which may stop this process is procrastination and your own discipline. By planning creativity and igniting that spark, you will find discipline to be an old hindrance, as you will be drawn to each simple task or item on the list with excitement; allowing you to easily complete your goal.

Then on to the next.

This is the last of four blogs I have published on the subject of ‘Planning Creativity’ which have been published throughout December. Alongside this I have planned on a new EP to be released in January 2017 (a month with 5 weeks), and will be launching the EP as part of  Independent Venue Week at Gwdihw Cafe Bar in Cardiff. Please come along and say hello.