How to Keep Afloat As a Creative While in University


Being a creative in university is quite an experience! The environment is conducive for your creative processes and the only challenge then is to get a balance between studies, fun, people and your projects. It’s here that I have realized how challenging it can be to juggle your passion with your studies. Well this statement-juggling your studies and your passion -definitely goes to indicate what your passion is not in this case.

Just after I cleared high school, I wanted so much to be a poet. I remember listening to specific songs and watching specific movies that I thought could help me broaden my imaginative capacity. I recall acquiring this phrase (like skating uphill) from a movie I was watching at 3 am one Tuesday night while chatting with a friend who was going back home after going out the previous night in Mombasa. I forgot to mention that just before starting on poetry I had been practicing graphitti since third form. In March 2010, after the year I cleared high school, I participated in the Sprite Slam Tour graphitti competition when the Sprite team visited my town. I managed to be among the two short listed finalists who were to represent my town in the national finals in Nairobi. In my opinion this competition was the foundation of my art career and so far, I have managed to forge certain friendships and be part of networks that are always very beneficial. Currently in my third year of campus, I moderate, on weekly basis, an artist’s platform in Maseno University that offers a space for creatives and other people to learn and share their creative experiences and processes. I also initiated a bloggers collective that is doing well. Just a month after we started people from outside the university are already reaching out to work with us. What’s even more fulfilling for me is the fact that I have several paintings and collage art pieces on display in two top galleries in the country and next Friday (July 11), I will be having a group exhibition with fellow artists in my town (yes, I started doing paintings and doing collages at the beginning of last year after being a rapper in my entire first year in campus. I uploaded five of my rap records on my Soundcloud page). In the past three years also, I have been hosting a 2 hour show on campus radio and just the other day, a voice test for a regionally highly rated radio station went well. So yes! there’s a lot to talk about!

A lot of the times I get a creative’s block I have to admit, because of not having enough sleep I hear. But it’s a problem I am learning to live with any way, by having a tailor made guideline on how to keep afloat as a poet, writer, radio host, paint, collage and illustration artist. And most importantly, a conversationalist. Here’s my guide on how to keep afloat as a creative while in campus:

  1. Always be ready to be part of most conversations. An artist is the sum of all his experiences and conversations. As a creative, you need to have experiences that will enrich your imaginative processes with the best scenes and sounds that can be. In campus, people are always looking for like-minded individuals to collaborate with or to introduce to successful or promising ventures be they business, entertainment or academic. In my last three years of campus I have talked to all the possible classes of people that are around my university. Of course you will have to snub some people at some points. You would be surprised that though I am a Political Science student myself, most people in campus think I am a Media and Communications student! Conversations are my source of energy. It’s how I reboot my mind when I am having that irritating creative’s block that cant seem to go away when I do all other things. Recently, I visited the uni’s Vice Chancellor’s office to negotiate on behalf of fellow artists for exhibition space on the administration block and in a hotel owned by the university in town. It’s going good so far! Back in first year, one Saturday morning I set out to go around the university taking photos for my Instagram feed. I captured very beautiful images that I still admire up to now (I used a simple smart phone back when having a smartphone was a big deal). I remember talking to villagers at a stream that meandered through a maize farm close to where I had gone to take a photo of the university’s farm. As a result of the many conversations that I have daily, my language skills have gotten better over the years and I understand a bit of the local dialect here. Good stuff!!
  2. Be a part of and build networks that will propel you to the next level. I build networks on the basis of some insight that I got from Maria Popova’s Brain pickings – the ideas that build the world are combinatorial. Networks are where people complete those half ideas that you have. Both in and outside campus I am part of rave groups, artist groups, student entrepreneurs groups, media student groups, choir groups, language student groups and most importantly class tasks discussion groups. Every group matters to me. I am also a part of many online creatives/artists platforms and groups. Online, I build networks by subscribing to mail updates from top creative sites and I always keep myself up to date with the latest creativity reports. Also, realize and accept that creativity is universal and if it is positive, it will be appreciated by any person with an eye for creative stuff. As a result of my network building activities, I have sold art to Raila Odinga, gotten critical assessment from Binyavanga Wainaina and Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (both winners of the Caine Prize for African writing) and had arguments around development during lunch with Mark Kaigwa. You get the sense that I roam a lot right? Yes. That’s how I network.
  3. Give yourself time to create a rich body of work. Beauty in art, as I have learnt from my experiences and from listening to other people’s experiences, is complemented a lot by experience. Being a perfectionist myself, and with the many things that I engage myself in, I have decided to allocate just Thursdays for full commitment to art. I do this to give myself more time to furnish my ideas and to think outside the box. This semester, I have done something new every Thursday to build on my creative processes and products. I define my own creative achievements. Creative and artistic sovereignty is important. I have also been blogging twice a week since the beginning of March this year and though I have missed to do so sometimes, I have developed a sense of self esteem around how I develop confidence in being happy even when I haven’t gotten to where I wanted to. I am broadening my creative capacities and even though I have never stepped into an art class myself, I get the impression that I should advise some of my friends who take fine art courses to get to my kind of way of learning-attempting, making mistakes, looking for tutorials and reattempting new stuff. Most importantly though, I read quite a lot about how to maintain a rich creative’s resource center-the brain. Also, give people the liberty to identify you as a non-conformist and liberal by your activities and achievements. My close friends (and here I am talking about by partners in campus crimes) have over the years learned to accept the very different views on things that I usually share with them. Ask Moses and Brian for example. These guys know what I will laugh at and why I think mainstream movies are a waste of my time. As you develop too, share your story with fellow creatives and have a clear pricing structure so that your price quotes are not seen as being utterly ridiculous by people who don’t know your creative journey. Also, try and get media coverage.


This is just free advice that I have developed for myself over the past three years and have witnessed it work first hand. This article is thus written as a way of reflecting on my creative journey. I am quite sure that had I gotten this same advice three years ago, I would be much more accomplished than I am now.