Graduate spotlight: Reigniting your creative fire
25 October 2022
Thomas Murphy Young – BA Musical Theatre and MA Professional Writing graduate – is a multitalented musician, performer and writer, who released his debut album after a five-year creative hiatus. Here, he speaks about discovering, losing and finally rekindling his creative fire.
What did you most enjoy about studying in Falmouth?
During my studies, Falmouth University was a wonderful community of artists and creative minds. People were coming from different areas of the UK, with different passions and aspirations but all with the same drive to create.
Coming from a small town, I wasn’t exposed to much creativity outside of my art classes, and suddenly I was seeing random performances all over campus: flash dances in The Stannary, open mic nights, fashion shows and musical performances. It was everywhere. It was an absolute melting pot where you could explore different avenues of art, where it wasn’t discouraged but promoted. And if you f*cked up, so what? It was all an experience and a development in your personal relationship with art. You were pushed to create, critique, and grow, not just upward but outward, stretching your mind and conjuring up different possibilities and how they might relate to the stage or the page.
You were encouraged to take the thing that you were passionate about and just share it, create it, and simply put it out there.
How did your course help you to develop the skills you needed for your industry?
My studies were crazy, but you were encouraged to take the thing that you were passionate about and just share it, create it, and simply put it out there. It was an unapologetic approach, in that sense. It was a steep learning curve, but a welcome one looking back. You were given a stimulus and just told to run with it and create.
This made us take risks both with our creativity, but it also encouraged us to care for the process and the product, not the success that came from the work. These very ideas were so important after graduating and when I finally started creating again, I found that rather than trying to do what other people wanted of my work, I kept that integrity, and as a result the work was so much better.
What has your career journey been since graduating from Falmouth University?
The first step was inspired by Tim Minchin’s Commencement Speech: “Be a teacher. Please? Please be a teacher. Teachers are the most admirable and important people in the world. You don’t have to do it forever, but if you’re in doubt about what to do, be an amazing teacher.”
I found myself working in a school where, on the second day, I was given a pair of knife-proof gloves and told to search the kids at the front gate. It was a universe away from the creative and safe environment of Falmouth and I didn’t last.
In an effort to find a more fulfilling job, I applied for a gradate scheme as a fundraising consultant. Safe to say after everything, my conscious creativity had well and truly dried up.
It wasn’t until five years later that I dusted off my piano and started writing music again. I released music for the first time and I even managed to write and release an album, and it wasn’t intended for fame and it wasn’t for fortune, but just to breathe some life into the tired creative body inside. From there I was approached to perform and write music for a couple of London light projects, which will go live in October and November.
My out of hours creative projects are getting bigger and bigger, fuelled by a fire that roared when I was student at university, and ever so nearly went out completely.
What helped you to continue to stoke your passion?
Being approached to create, and having my skills and craft respected and being given creative freedom without fear of being held back. Being encouraged to be the best that I can be. I now surround myself with like-minded people, who strive to create in all sorts of forms: from music to performance to even business, people that were in such numbers at Uni, where now they have to be sought after.
Bristol, where I live, is a huge hub for creative people and not quite as expensive as London, and these people thankfully exist, you just have to look for them.
What project are you particularly proud of?
My first album. Putting anxieties aside about it not being good enough, or mastered to perfection, or reaching 100,000 monthly listeners on Spotify or making money from the streams. But finally, after years of writing music and experiencing life, being able to put it all together and sharing it.
What challenges were there and what did you learn through the process?
There are a whole lot of challenges when it comes to making work, or doing a job, or taking part in a project. It can be logistical; it can be difficult to find the time, or the motivation. But the biggest challenges I find are the ones that we create for ourselves, whether it be the fear of getting it wrong, or of falling flat on our faces. These concerns were so numerous. “What if no one likes it?” “What if no one listens?” “What if I put all this time and energy into this and have nothing but crap to show for it at the end?” No matter how many times you create or perform these fears always rear their heads.
Say yes. Life is full of opportunities, but if you pass them up because you’re lacking motivation, or you're scared of what could happen then you’ll never do anything.
What are you up to now?
I still work as a consultant. Crucially though, I do so happily because I also create, so I have my passion and my monthly payslip. My out of hours creative projects are getting bigger and bigger, fuelled by a fire that roared when I was student at university, and ever so nearly went out completely.
Who knows what 2023 will bring. So long as I’m still creating music, I can’t say I’m concerned.
What advice would you give to our current and future students?
Firstly, people often say it’s not always what you know but who you know, and I totally agree. Of course, it’s important to have the knowledge, and the passion, and the drive to create and the resilience to fall down and get back up and manage self-promotion, but people, people will really help you. Surrounding yourself with a community of likeminded driven creatives will make your entry into any industry easier.
Secondly, say “yes”. Someone’s got a creative event that they need help with? Say yes. Someone wants to collaborate with you? Say yes. Life is full of opportunities, but if you pass them up because you’re lacking motivation, or you're scared of what could happen then you’ll never do anything. Five years later you’ll look at yourself in the mirror and blame your lack of progress on that you’ve not been given your big break, without really seeing that unless you say yes more, you might not get one.
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