Don’t worry if you’re not doing what you love just yet, but stay open to opportunity and risk, advises the BRIT School’s Simon Stephens.

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#IfIwere22: I’d see as much theatre as possible

I think seeing great theatre is one of the most inspiring, energising and motivating experiences you can have. Watching other people’s work is one of the best ways to get better at your own craft. I never feel that an evening at the theatre is wasted. Even if I see something I don’t enjoy, I still take something from it.

#IfIwere22: I’d value every experience

I think I’ve learnt something useful from every job I have had, even those seemingly unrelated to my current career. They were not necessarily what I wanted to be doing at the time, but I always learnt something. It might have been about working with people or organising events, or something as simple as using spreadsheets or managing money. I find that I have to draw on so many different skills in my work now, many of which I acquired from a job rather than from training or education.

#IfIwere22: I’d try to be open to opportunity

There are often surprising opportunities that present themselves when working freelance as a creative artist. They can sometimes seem like a sideways step or not the logical next step in your career. But these unexpected turns are often the most exciting and rewarding opportunities you encounter. They also might open new doors in your career that you’d never thought about.

This is certainly what happened to me and led to what I do now. I hadn’t considered teaching as a permanent career and now feel I have an incredibly creative and rewarding job with young people.

#IfIwere22: I’d try to take risks

When you have a good idea that you really believe in, you should pursue it and make it happen. If you over-think, hesitate or wait for the ‘right’ moment you’ll always find a reason not to do something. Making work is the best way to get better at making work, whether you are a director, a writer, an actor or any type of artist. Whatever the scale of the project, make it happen.

#IfIwere22: I’d look at other people’s journeys

I think finding out from other people the journeys they have taken is a great way of working out what you might need to do to achieve something similar. The creative industries are full of people who have careers they didn’t necessarily set out to achieve. The great thing about a career in the arts is there are so many routes – and so many jobs – that no one really tells you about. So, if you find someone who has a job you think you would like, try to find out what they’ve done to get it.

Simon Stephens is Director of Theatre at the BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology.

Simon is currently producing Landmines, written by Phil Davies, which will be performed by the Bridge Theatre Company at Brighton Fringe from 30 to 31 May, and at Ovalhouse from 6 to 24 June.

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Photo of Simon Stephens