False bravado vs unfounded terror

I read a blog recently ( that I should have copied the link too, but forgot) about how creative types end up, through manipulation or self loathing, doing more work than they are actually being paid to do.  Among other points made was this ” all artists secretly feel like they are frauds and the only way to keep the world from noticing is to work constantly”.  I found that to be interesting in a “hitting too close to home” sort of way, I also found it interesting that on a FB page frequented by artists…no one bothered to protest, or disagree.

A little insight into what creative industry type jobs does to you-

There is no real ruler, scale, or quantifiable way to determine if you have done a good job.  If you are a mechanic and rebuild an engine, you can run a compression test on the cylinders, check for leaks ect. If you are a electrician, you can run a resistance test on the wires. If you are a doctor…hell..you can even charge to test to see if you did a good job.  In the creative industry…well…I guess there are reviews and sales to take into account, but we all know good sales do not equal good product, and bad reviews do not equal bad product.  So you are pretty much left with working long hours and rarely being able to satisfy your ego’s curiosity on how good you did.

Also whether you do a good job or not…it doesn’t seem like you made much of a dent in the world around you.  Again, if you fix a car, you can clearly see that you have enabled someone to get to work every day, fix some wiring you have helped prevent a house from burning down and enabled that person to use the coffee maker and microwave at the same time.  If you are a doctor, if the people who visit you leave  upright and they have you to thank, you can clearly see you have left a mark on the world.  It’s tougher to see that when your job is to entertain. 

This turns a lot of us into blowhards, and braggarts, or overly humble and self a facing, out of sheer mental defense mechanisms.  We work no less hours and have spend no less time developing our skills but justifying to ourselves and others that our work matters and we do in fact work for a living and deserve a bit of respect…leaves us to often puff out our chest a bit too much OR act too humble in hopes that people will disagree with our self loathing and prop us up.  Much like a woman asking if she looks fat in a certain dress.

I’ve managed, for the most part, to remain pretty level headed about it all.  I make no claim that I am above anyone else with a regular job, while at the same understanding that my efforts do matter in fending off the malaise of life’s daily hum drum.

I too though have the nagging fears of creative types. I’m going to list some that I think might be pretty universal.

I’m afraid that whatever story I’m working on won’t make any sense to anyone but me.

I’m afraid that I peaked some time ago and will never be that good again.  That my current idea isn’t as good as the last one and I’ll get progressively worse from here.

I’m afraid I’ll die working on the current project and never get to work on the much better idea I have for the next one.

I’m afraid everything will go wrong on some future project and it won’t see the light of day and everyone will hate me/I’ll look like a fool.

I’m afraid the time I’ve spent alone and working is accumulating into a sorry fate, that I’ll die alone…with no one to care that I’m gone on any profound level.

I’m afraid that nothing I’m doing really matters.

I’m afraid that I’ll never succeed to the level I imagined and that I’ll have let everyone down.

I’m afraid everything will fall apart after it is too late to choose a different path.

I’m afraid it is already too late to choose a different path and I am trapped.

I’m afraid everyone, at once, will stop caring or being entertained by what I do.

I’m afraid that the mind that has formed between my ears, that sees the world differently…that serves me so well in my work, is slowly distancing me from my fellow man.

I could go one, but those are the high points that I think/fear may be universal.

So why do we keep going?  Why don’t we just quit and trade it all in for a career without fears that are so specific that there are few who can truly relate to them that could act a support?

There’s a list for that to…

Because when it works, there is nothing that compares to the satisfaction of making something that didn’t exist in 6000 years of human art or storytelling.

Because people believe in you.

Because that idea in your head is more compelling than a stack of pornography to a 13 year old boy.  You simply must… or go mad.

Because of a notion, real or based in ego, that because no one else can do what you do…that you are supposed to be doing it.

Because of the praise and accolades.  An interesting thesis could be written on this, that perhaps it is  some survival instinct that evolved. In more dangerous times, having large groups supporting you meant safety.  Perhaps that has been bread into us, or perhaps it is simply that the praise and accolades are like a drug that once you ingest…you must continually chase.

Because you are good at it.

Because you have invested so much time and effort that stopping now may be even more foolish than running for safety.

Because when it works you look like a magical genius somehow keyed into a world mere mortals cannot see.

Because of the hope that whatever you are doing obscures the list of fears that other people with other lives have…maybe just for a little bit.  Maybe you have made a brief respite from reality for your fellow man.

Because, when you are not thinking about all those things…it is fun.

Quite a roller-coaster.  When 95% of your job is in between your ears, what’s in between your ears can look like the Chicago skyline at night, or Dresden at the end of WWII.  Self aware as we creative types are, we clearly understand that others, with different professions have lists with more dire and mortal fears and hopes.  When I worked in a garage doing auto repair my list of fears included ” I’m afraid this engine hoist will give out and my hands will be crushed”.  I wonder sometimes if I might be better off now had that happened.  Nah, I’d just be here trying to draw with a stump.

Understand that this was written, not as a pity party or too seem overly profound (hell, It only took me half an hour to write), but because I thought it might be interesting.  I hope it was.  I hope it isn’t more interesting that what I am spending 10 hours drawing.  Maybe I’ll add that fear to the list.


I’ll be at Baltimore Comic Con this weekend (sept. 25-27) along with my friends Joseph Michael Linsner, Kristina Deak and Sara Richard.  Come by and allay our fears with cash!






Bookmark the permalink.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Archives