The Coach: The world of work doesn’t scratch my creative itch

The world of architecture isn’t satisfying a reader’s creative urges. Matthew Turner suggests that embracing one’s genuine curiosities can provide the motivation to persevere through inevitable challenges

I know I have an intensely creative mind – in fact, that’s what led me to architecture in the first place. But I find the world of work doesn’t scratch my creative itch. I get incredibly frustrated, and I feel constrained. Am I missing something? 

For me, your question goes to the heart of why some architects get ground down by their careers. The ‘world of work’ as you put it is the context of your creativity. The secret of getting what you want out of work is to exercise your creative muscles on a daily basis, setting out to understand how new ideas work, and then to nurture them. 

There are many theories as to what creativity is, one such posits that it’s made up of the following attributes: the existence of expertise, imaginative thinking skills; a venturesome personality; intrinsic motivation; and a creative environment that sparks, supports and refines creative ideas. While the last is clearly contextual, others come from you and your approach to your work and its concerns.  


So, what gets you excited? What would you like to learn? Our education focuses our view of creativity on the spatial, material, and visual. While those are amazing areas of interest, architecture practice can be a lot more than these. That is the beauty of the sphere of the built environment overall. Embrace your genuine curiosities, and understand that this deep interest will give them the motivation to persevere through and tackle inevitable challenges. 

Real creativity can mean balancing childlike curiosity and enjoyment with a wise mind, to connect seemingly unrelated elements

Going further, some deep thought on what creativity means to you might be worthwhile. Creative geniuses can bring together and express the entire range of traits possible within the human experience. You might need to embrace your paradoxes and complexities and recognise this as a positive. While this may mean creative minds find themselves misunderstood at times, it also means they benefit from rich insight and experiences. 

Many architects are highly intelligent. But what does that mean on its own? Real creativity can mean looking at the world through the eyes of an expert … and a beginner. By balancing childlike curiosity and enjoyment with a wise mind, you can connect seemingly unrelated elements and put them together to work toward your goals. 

Being able to detach oneself from one’s work, to critique or even tear it apart, is an essential part of true creativity. This is not to say that planning is unimportant, but making plans might mean not sticking to them. Remember that you never have all the information at the beginning of a design process. We gather new information and learnings as we go, and need to be able to react and adapt based on these new findings.  

Equally, creativity can mean a lot of time and effort spent planning, reflecting and strategising about what to do next. However, the true creative can also have the uncanny ability to quickly throw these plans out in light of new information or more promising opportunities. 


Concerning expertise, one well-known adage is that it takes 10,000 hours of time and experience to master a skill. Creative minds believe in the importance of their expertise, allowing real creativity within the realms of traditional thinking. The idea is to start innovating from that foundation of knowledge. Perhaps this can be summed up as, break the rules—but learn them first.

AJ Coach Matthew Turner is an architect and careers consultant who runs the Building on Architecture consultancy. Email him in confidence at hello@buildingonarchitecture.com

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