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  • Writer's pictureLiam Xavier

Sacrifice, Support & Sentimentality; 10 Years on a Creative Journey

In exactly a month - at the time of publishing - I will be turning 29. For the most part, a birthday without much consequence beyond the dwindling ability to say "I'm just a twentysomething teenager" and pretend to myself that I'm not an adult yet. However, it also marks a little over 10 years of being on this funny little creative journey of mine. That seemed something to mark with a reflective blog that offered a few insights into what went right, what went wrong and what I think the future looks like. Perhaps it might help you in your own journey? There's a lot to cover so I've split it into 3 sections: Sacrifice, Support & Sentimentality. If you have any other questions or curiosities, just reach out to me on socials @liamxavierwrites.

Sacrifices Change Yearly

One thing I was always taught, whether it was by family members or university professors, was that to fulfil my dreams, I had to make sacrifices. This remains true. What I didn't quite realise is just how frequently the particular sacrifices I would give as an offering to the creative gods would change. The truth of the matter is simple: life changes. As life changes, what you're happy and able to sacrifice cannot remain the same. Whether it's as small as sacrificing an hour in the evening or as large as reducing the amount of social events, it's a choice that has to be made in line with the circumstances of your life.

A male with an afro is covered in lights with friends
Experimenting with light on film in University

As an example, when I was 19 and full of energy, with a healthy back, and a fuller hairline, all that mattered to me was writing. While I went to University and experienced much of the liquor-filled nights out and youthful clumsiness-influenced hospital trips, I was still more focused on building my reputation and name. Even if, on campus, that meant being called Seth Rogen due to my beard, afro and, probably, weight, my name did start to find its way in the right circles online. It was, initially, quite a healthy balance of socialising to increase my confidence and make friends, whilst also dedicating time to write incessantly. The sacrifice at this time though was rest and any care toward finding a partner. I was unflinchingly single, with the honestly astonishing ability to not notice clear signs. I was also completely allergic to the concept of sitting still unless asleep and even that, as a student and an ambitious writer, was already in short supply. My blog took off, I started writing for the student newspaper, Thought Catalog, The Mighty, The Hippo Collective, Unwritten, Be A Light Collective and a couple of others! All while also building a poetry account. I was busy. However, as is often true at this time, almost all of it was without payment and led to an eventual long-lasting burnout. Now, the all-out sacrifices here can work occasionally. I won't completely lambast their effectiveness, but it is something that can go wrong very quickly. It worked for me for a good while and is, I would argue, how I moved my creative journey in the right direction. But it's not something I could do to the same extent now and that is the exact point of evolving sacrifices.

Nowadays, with friends and family more split across the country and with busier schedules, socialising has become more important. Friendships, as you get older and ironically see them less, become more essential to a persistent sense of happiness. Desperately spending every second on the creative journey becomes trickier as a result. Money issues, political disasters, ageing fatigue and seemingly less time in a day, mean that rest and strong connections take priority and the sacrifice is free labour and to some extent, a sense of pride that everything has to happen immediately. Right now, for me, quantity is sacrificed for consistency and quality and intensity are replaced with rest. At some point in the future, those sacrifices may change again. I may need to take a lower salary to enable a full-time career as an author (relying on advances and royalties). It's not the same for everyone, but the one thing that remains true across the board is that what you sacrifice at 19 will be different from what you sacrifice at 29. Work out what you can afford to lose and lose it gently.

Support Does Not Stay Consistent

Perhaps the most depressing fact of the creative journey. Support is one of the most fickle factors. By support, I mean the people who are willing to help, who are willing to engage in each piece of content and the audience you reach. Whether it's friends, family, school friends or readers you've had around you on the journey, it also changes. This is a fact that we just have to get used to and also learn not to resent. People get busy. People forget things. Algorithms flood you out of people's field of vision. Just as sacrifices evolve across each year, so too will the people buying your art, liking your posts and shouting your name from the rooftops.

A male in a checkered shirt is talking to a microphone
One of my favourite nights, performing at Mind Over Matter in Camden

I've felt this at different points in the last 10 years. Sometimes it's clear that people are just tired of waiting for you to get to a height they invested in and no longer have the patience to devote the same support. Sometimes it's less intentional and where people might have found you and loved you through one thing (Thought Catalog), they might not know to find you elsewhere (Instagram, books etc). Even the best digital marketing makes this a fact. I've worked in marketing throughout this period, often working on websites and content and bringing people from one platform to another. Some people drop off, even in the best of outcomes. Sometimes that's better from a qualified audience perspective too.

The best way to deal with this is one of (or all of) 3 ways:

  1. Remember to create what you love. When support begins to slow or taper, it's easy to resort to quick trends or to detour from the content you started with just because it works for others. While it is true that we need to evolve our content as the years go on, it still has to remain consistent with our voices and our hearts. Often my quietest moments with articles or poems are when I've tried to be too much like someone I'm not. In copywriting, this works fine because the objectives of a different brand are.... different. But unless you're writing for someone else, write for you.

  2. Provide value to those that are supporting you. I'll keep this one short and sweet. Whether you have 2 supporters, 3000 or 100,000, know who they are and create something that brings them value. If you do, they'll stay and if they stay, they'll bring others.

  3. Support others. This sounds very simple but the quickest way to gain support is to support others. Some of my closest friends are people I've met along the way and often there's an exchange not just of ideas and experiences, but of supporters too. I've met some amazing people across the last 10 years and every step, each has helped move me forward, whether through advice or opportunity. Network. Collaborate. Support. Get excited when someone does something cool, instead of jealous (this in itself takes a little getting used to, comparison loves to get in the way).

A collectionf of people at an event, standing together
At the end of a brilliant night of fellow poets and I performing pieces to promote Period support across the world

Sentimentality Matters In More Ways Than One

This might be a point some will disagree with me on, but it's certainly true for me. In 10 years of being on this journey of creativity, I've found myself having to make a lot of decisions. Decisions that could very well have altered the course and speed of my journey, for better or for worse. Many of these decisions I've made can be traced to an ethical sentimentality. I've stopped working with platforms or brands if their values begin to veer too far from what I believe in and, in some cases, begin to spread content that is harmful or misinformed. Usually, for me, this is about holding the liberal values I hold and believing that everyone deserves love, respect, peace and equality. You'd be surprised how often these beliefs are found in conflict along the journey. Whether it's writing for publications that enable harmful, xenophobic content to pass through the edit stage or performing at venues that support bigoted individuals. It's a factor that, as a creative, you have to know where you stand because at some point, you will be faced with the question of "can I still willingly progress my career under these circumstances?". Perhaps you're less socially or politically inclined and these things don't bother you, in all honesty, you will probably get to where you want to a little quicker. But in 10 years, I have never regretted making a decision based on these fundamental values, even where it has slowed down my career path.

Creatives are emotional people. Whether it's the values we stand for, the treatment we'll accept or the extent to which we are diluted in our work, we have to have boundaries. Without boundaries, we may go further but at what cost? Ethics, sentimentality and boundaries matter more the more years go by and the quicker you know where you stand, the easier it becomes to know when to say Yes and when to emphatically say No.

A man, looks at this notepad in a purple hued room
A Featured Slot, alongside 3 other poets at Soho House Brixton for SaysEvents

At The End of the Day

10 years on a creative journey is a long time. It's a long enough time that to truly go over everything I've learnt would be more fitting to multiple articles or a series of videos. But this, I thought, was a nice start. It is a summary of what, to me, has been the most important crucial things to remember. Whether it has been my time in corporate film production, my writing for businesses or my creative writing, there have been things to be proud of and things to reflect upon. There have been things no-one could have predicted, and moments that created such a serotonin high that it was practically impossible not to fall deeply the moment it passed. It has taught me that there is no predicting, but there is preparing. There are no guarantees, but there are possibilities. There are no beautiful moments without the ugly, and there are no ugly moments without the beautiful.

If this is your first year or your fifth year or even your fiftieth, remember that the pace and process is different for each of us and that the key to staying happy is equally different. But, in my experience, sacrifice, support and sentimentality will lead you down a happier journey, even if it takes a little longer. That's adapting to evolving sacrifices to maintain happiness, curating a strong support group but remaining aware of it's fluidity and believing in a sentimentality personal to you.

Above all else, believe in your abilities.

Once again, if you want to see more like this, follow this blog and find me on socials @liamxavierwrites.

If you'd also like to hear a little about my writing process, take a look at this interview with Matt Abbot:


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