Don’t let competition change your style
Competition can also push people to divert from their particular practice. As Zoe says, “competition as a mechanism to make people work harder is good, but the comparative aspect is problematic.” Imposter syndrome can drive students to feel like they don’t deserve to be where they are, or doubt the validity of their work. Some third years start to get noticed by industry as they begin to excel in their field, and it’s often tempting to change your practice to fit what is believed to be the ‘industry mould’.
But, in Billie’s experience, the importance lies in “doing projects that are representative of your practice and that you find interesting, rather than doing some killer, blockbuster work that people are going to notice”. She reminds students that “People pay attention if it’s good and if it’s true to what you’re into. They’ll also notice if you put spotlights around it to make it look good because you panicked.”
Bad working culture will wear you down
The working culture during your time at university is also important, as this can often determine how you work for the rest of your life. As Billie says, “you just function off each other’s energy. If no one else is resting, then you’re going to feed off that atmosphere.” In industry, Zoe’s research shows that “the more productive you are, arguably the more exploited you are, because you’re producing more for less pay.”
This is applicable to uni as well; be efficient so you have more time to yourself. “Having a shorter day makes you more productive,”, says Zoe, “but at the same time it’s important to remember not to reduce people to productivity because they’re so much more than that.”
Knowing your boundaries
At the end of the day, having enough confidence in your work to determine exactly what you need to do, and then sustaining focus on those goals, is difficult when you’re at university. Most people attend in their late teens and early twenties; it’s a time of major personal development, and art school in particular requires a lot of maturity in terms of expressing yourself creatively.
Burnout comes as a result of working too hard, not taking time for yourself and holding yourself to an absurdly high standard. A lot of these standards stem from you, yourself. It’s so important to be aware of your limits and to set boundaries for your time, as no one is going to do it for you.
There is an overwhelming amount of pressure to work all the time, but ultimately that means you won’t produce the most creative work. Rest, plan your time, and don’t compare yourself to others. Continue in the spirit of your first and second year, make work that you love, and remember that uni is not the be all and end all. There’s a whole life afterwards that’s waiting to be lived!