Insecurity in the creative department. It happens to the best of us.

September 10, 2008

the creative muse, beset with insecurity.

Busy time at the agency. Lots of pitches. Lots of production. And always lots of meetings. Being both a player and a coach in the creative department, I experience the pressure like a barometer –a sensitive yet accurate measurer of my department’s zeitgeist. And I’m not the only one.

We in creative are an insecure lot. I’m not ashamed to say it. We crave validation from our peers, bosses, clients and then everyone else, AKA consumers. That’s a lot of masters to please. Then, if you’re like me, having worked obsessively, you spend the rest of your life in or near the doghouse at home. Yikes, no wonder we want awards! As “commercial artists,” we are forever at someone’s beck and call. And our patrons are seldom benevolent. So, we bust our butts at work while mortgaging our home life. In both cases craving adulation and respect that we’re not likely to receive.

Am I being melodramatic? Sort of.

I’d also argue that insecurity (with our place in the creative group, the agency, even the world) is part of a creative person’s DNA. Let me explain. We are paid to solve problems with conceptual thinking. Our most important creations are ideas. And, by design, these ideas are subject to criticism. Lots of it. As creatives, we are hyper-aware of this reality. On Day 1, we want desperately to please our new partner and boss; show him or her what we’re made of. In our twilight years, we know the next idea may be our last. In between, we have fought tooth and nail to make a book…a name. “You are only as good as your last idea,” goes the voice in our head.

One can be taught how to better write or render ideas. Copy can be rewritten. There is always another typeface. But your ideas are purely a measure of YOU. And we know it!

As a creative director, I take pride in being able to find a good idea in a mess of bad ones. That’s part of my job. But it’s not my favorite part. I neither want to be the maker of messes or the guy who cleans them up. No creative person wants any part of that equation. Not really. Yet, in order to make an omelet you’ve got to break eggs. Creation is messy.

Under these conditions it’s hard to let go of our ego-driven fears. But understanding what’s causing these insecurities is the first step. Think of it as not crying over spilled ideas.

I manage insecurity every day. Both my own and in others. Accepting it as our reality helps make the creative process more enjoyable, even if it means making or cleaning messes!


4 Responses to “Insecurity in the creative department. It happens to the best of us.”

  1. peanut gallery said

    I think it’s the insecurity that keeps you sharp, keeps you past 5:30, and most importantly, keeps you employed.

    Just my two cents.

  2. SRP said

    You’re just saying that ’cause you’re insecure.
    A joke…
    But you’re right. Healthy fear is an important driver. Unhealthy fear can and does paralyze agencies.

  3. Jason Fox said

    Maybe I’m different (don’t answer that), but I’ve often been my most confident when facing the blank page. Especially as a younger man, when most of life’s circumstances seemed out of my control, I took comfort in my ability to fill that page with ideas that worked. Project after project. Year after year. I loved being in that position of possibly failing spectacularly.

    Of course, the great irony of my life is that I’ve ended up being most successful and the things that caused my greatest insecurity. I absolutely love being a husband and dad. I guess time will really tell how fulfill those roles, so I’m feeling pretty good at the moment.

    Conversely, my career has been, well, just okay. I’ve made a good living for which I’m grateful, but things have yet to turn out quite like I had hoped. A combination of youthful arrogance, agency politics, bad economic timing and whatnot just led me down that path. And that’s okay. I’m still relatively young (there’s time yet for a pencil or lion). But more importantly, I’d rather be a success at home.


  4. I’m personally trying to cultivate an attitude of non-attachment to my ideas. I work my butt off to make them as good as they can be, and defend them, but gladly let them go if it’s not to be. Because creativity is the most powerful force in the universe, and if we resist change, I feel we’re also resisting the true power of creativity. Aum…

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