As an arts writer I often feel trapped in the middle of two worlds — the academic and the creative. This is a topic that has come up again and again throughout my life. It reared its ugly head in the GCSEs I picked, in the A Levels I went on to do, in the Foundation and subsequent Degree, and now it's found its way into my work (where finally it's pretty welcome).
If you have an interest in both sides of education you will probably find that you are frequently asked to pick. If you find yourself in this dilemma, worry not. If you keep both flames burning it's likely that your career will place you somewhere in between.
Don't feel pressured to pick in your formative years
Some people quite clearly fit in one box or other, many fall somewhere in between. Schools can often try to push you in one clear direction, signing your life (and talents) away from an early age. If you're academic but also love getting up on stage, you shouldn't feel the need to make that choice. Ensure that your subject choices are well balanced and you'll leave all doors open to yourself, some creative, some academic, many that satisfy both. Remember, creative subjects shouldn't be treated as 'weaker' subjects, and a good balance will ensure that you're noticed by all, no matter which direction you decide to take your career in.
Keep passions going in some form
Having said that, not all creative subjects are offered at school. It can be difficult to keep these interests going when many of the more niche creative options aren't available beyond a certain age. This is why it is so important to look outside of the normal educational structures. If you are taking a lot of academic subjects at school there is no reason why you can't take up an extra curricular creative class and hone your talents there. It will help you to meet like-minded people, where you will be encouraged to take this creative interest seriously.
Do your research
Career paths are often laid out in very simple terms and the pressure to choose immediately between an academic role or creative one seem quite clear cut. Do you want to be a doctor or an actor? Those are literally your only two choices, pick now! There are in fact many grey areas, that can really benefit from someone who is both creative and academic. Arts journalist, web designer, inventor…all of these things involve a creative mind, with some academic or scientific training. It can be really helpful to take a look through arts jobs websites to see everything that's open to you. You might find something surprising.
Speak to people in the know
The best way of getting past the 'creative jobs don't pay well and are oversubscribed' story is to speak to people who are involved in these careers. Many people who have made it in the arts are very willing to offer advice, and can help you realise that your career dreams are substantial. Get in touch with people who are working in the kind of career you dream of and ask them how they got there.
The most important thing? Follow your gut.
You might not yet know what you want to do with your academic side, or your creative side. You just need to keep delving into your interests and following your instincts. If you don't feel ready to shut one door or other, don't worry. You don't need to choose until you're ready, and you are in no way watering yourself down if you stick with both.