You all seem to have meaningful careers and creative lives outside of your collective. What tips do you have for creating space for both facets of your professional life?
Emma: For me, it’s about understanding that the thing I do for money will never bring total fulfillment, so maintaining my creative practice requires putting aside time to think and make art without productivity as the direct goal. If you have a more creative job, maybe 9 to 5 life becomes more tolerable because you can channel some of your creativity there. But then does that creative energy come out of your other artistic work? One strategy is to get a job entirely unrelated to your art so that you can put all of your love and energy into your practice. And then there’s freelancing, which comes with the biggest risks but possibly also the biggest rewards. So that’s to say, I don’t know! I think that we’re all still figuring this out. When we all lived in Baltimore for the first 2 years after college, we worked 20 hours for CYM every week on top of the 40 hours we were each working for our other jobs. That level of hustle isn’t always possible and wasn’t ultimately sustainable, but it led to some really interesting work. It was only with that investment of time that we were able to make the year of working exclusively on Say You’re Sorry possible.
Sophie: I advocated a lot in the beginning for all the pathfinding we needed to do as individuals in order to solidify sustainability in our futures. It was, and still is, important to me to bring a grounded sense of self to the collective. I’m always checking in with myself to make sure I’m consciously choosing to take part in each project. Having some fulfillment and financial stability outside of our strong, beautiful relationship has given it room for even more strength. But I also learned so much from the times when we took bigger risks together, when we depended more on one another (emotionally or otherwise), when there was some money tied up in our collective endeavors. The higher stakes have prompted bigger real world moves from us! Generally, I don’t think our actions are motivated by money as much as imagination, relationships, justice, those things.
Mia: It takes a lot of work! I agree with what both Emma and Sophie have said. We worked 20+ hours outside of our full-time jobs to make sure we kept up our collaborative practice — and it is a practice. But in order to nurture that, we each have to have our own projects, work, ideas etc. that we bring into our collective world. Sometimes that balance is really difficult to strike especially if I’m feeling uninspired in my personal creative projects or my work — but I’ll definitely say that having CYM as friends and collaborators is sort of an unending energy source. It ebbs and flows certainly (and COVID has been a real challenge in that aspect), but it is always there if you make time for it. I think that is true for the most important creative relationships in our lives: if you nurture it you can lean on it!
Elif: When we graduated university in 2017, we moved to Baltimore, Maryland together to commit to our practice. We all worked as educators and community artists 40 hours a week, and would come to our ~20 hours of CYM work a week depleted. The normalization of capitalist hustle culture mixed with our creative wounds — it wasn’t always pretty. I am so thankful that we did not give up on each other and the worlds we make together. My tips for balancing material and creative needs are simple — find people who inspire you and who you inspire, and don’t stop investing in each other. Learn how to sit in conflict together. Learn how to take critique without shame. Learn that the failings of our system are not alone to carry. And keep making, even when you can’t define what it is you’re creating.