Advice to Young Creatives Series: Guest Post by Playwright & Actor Vichet Chum

Today’s post in the Advice to Young Creatives series comes from actor and playwright Vichet Chum.

Vichet is someone I think of as a compass in the world, pointing in the direction of truth and light. Thank you so much Vi for taking the time to write your thoughts and advice to young folks embarking on the creative journey.

I also made some artwork based on Vichet’s words (although it looks like I misquoted THE FIRST PIECE OF ADVICE….let’s blame overworked parent/COVID brain…?). Sometimes you do things imperfectly, right?

Much of my arts education fell at a time when teachers were elevated to idols and their words felt holy. And because I was impressionable and wanted so desperately to just get it right, I internalized their words as some objective truth. Now as a writer, I’ve spent much of my incipient career unlearning advice, finding my truth in chosen wisdoms and cultivating my own compass. With time, perspective and personal work, I arrive at the simple truth: I know some things, and I know nothing at all. From this great expanse, I humbly share my thoughts.

You are always a human first. Though we have romanticized the grind, I would ask that you see it for what it really is: extremely unsexy. You can work hard, be devoted to your craft, and be exceptional without sacrificing your physical and emotional health. Feed yourself. Walk around the block. Fall in love. Read a book. Have a child. Learn how to play piano. Relearn how to ride a bike. Visit your friend across the country. Relish in your time not working. Change directions entirely. Don’t wait for your life to begin. It’s begun.

Ask for compensation. Ask for more compensation. In the creative sector, we can often operate from a space of perceived scarcity. There is a deeply embedded cultural expectation that we should work for the love of the art. We can do that and be fairly compensated for our work, our ideas and our time.

Social media isn’t everything. The social media space is a wonder. It makes connections. It builds communities. It can be a powerful tool for self-advocacy and promotion. It can change the world through grass roots movements. And even still, it isn’t everything. Develop your own relationship with the myriad of platforms. Do one. Do all of them. Do none of them. Your social media activity or lack of activity does not determine your connectivity to the rest of the world. It only makes meaning if you desire it to.

At the beginning of a meeting, state exactly what time you need to leave. And then leave at that time. Don’t wait for a tidy ending. It may never come. Respect your time.

Another person’s success is not your failure. I will forever praise my former grad school acting teacher Brian McEleney for this sage advice. Success is a gnarly thing. It’s alluring. It’s sometimes satisfying, sometimes not. It can make you terribly myopic in its pursuit. When you see others achieve adjacent goals (or even irrelevant ones), it can create this gulf between you and that person or even just within yourself. Don’t let it. We are all on different glorious journeys. Break up the binary of success and failure. There is a massive playground in between that can offer meaningful outcomes. Celebrate your beloved ones when they achieve a goal. Know yourself. Stay the course.

Adopt a dog. Obviously.

Listen to yourself. The arts are a collaborative form. We build tapestries of ideas with the hands, hearts and minds of many. And among the multitudes, are you. Special, brilliant onlyyou. Cultivate your instincts. Love them deeply. Engage them with others. Give yourself a bit of humility for them to be changed. Practice them. Deepen them. Listen to them.  My partner often jokes with me that when I ask him for advice, I will work my way through an entire conversation to get back to my initial instinct. You were probably right to begin with.

In the immortal words of Ms. Lauryn Hill: “How you gon’ win when you ain’t right within.” Love yourself. Love yourself. Love yourself. There’s nothing else, if there isn’t that.

2 thoughts on “Advice to Young Creatives Series: Guest Post by Playwright & Actor Vichet Chum

  1. “Another person’s success is not your failure.”

    That’s a solid point, because as a writer, I often compare myself to the winners of writing competitions that I join, and it’s easy to feel like a failure when I get into that mindset. This was a great post. Thanks for the share!

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