Confidence and how to lose it less gracefully

Unedited version of an essay I wrote for Craft 01: Make magazine.
March 4, 2017

Of course, everyone’s relationship to their craft is different, but the number one thing I’ve wrestled with the majority of my career is Confidence and how to lose it less gracefully.

With 10 years experience, it’s still a mystery to me how this feeling can be so ethereal yet so crucial to my work. This is why I drink.

Also, why does Confidence at once define who I am as a person and who I am as a creator? I haven’t got answers by the way. We put ourselves into our work whether we like it or not.

At the fundamental, cash-money end of creating we take a brief and fulfil it to fit with within client defined parameters. Everyone got that down.

But it’s hard sometimes not to take it personally when we receive feedback that whiffs of negativity, is critical or - whisper it - you’re not fulfilling the brief.

‘But, I am The Creator, this pleb does not get my VISION’. We’ve all been there. It’s almost a rite of passage. Getting your arrogant ass smacked down by the Paddle of Reality is a chastening experience, one I would prescribe yearly to remind us of what lane we’re driving in.

I learnt very quickly that every round of feedback isn’t an attack on me. Of course, clients don’t think like that. They want just want some 'Good' that fulfils their needs.

It doesn’t help when good ‘ol imposter syndrome sneaks up and deals a hefty right hook to the chops. I don’t have any formal education in my career and someone is ‘going to find out soon and tell all my clients’. Thanks to my internal monologue narrator, D. Thomas. Prick.

Hey, confidence is the great leveller. Just because I don’t have a formal education doesn’t mean that woman with 100k followers on Insta or that guy who knows what ‘design for extremes’ means are more ‘confident’ than you; that they are somehow superior to you. You’ve been employed to do a job, do it. Worry about what others think later.

If there is one thing I can pass on to any newbie it’s this: Confidence is the keystone to your creativity. Yet, Confidence isn’t there to master. You can’t harness Confidence and parade it around town. Because it’s going to throw you off and bolt, leaving you chewing the dust of despondency.

Confidence is there to mutually respect. You see it passing in the wood, it turns towards you, sizing you up. You nod. Confidence nods back and moves on.

My theory: Absolutely everyone is creative. But, (and without sounding too IDEO) a really good creator is someone who understands creative confidence. You may not be good at some of the technical aspects of creating, but you can learn that. Do it. Make shit and make shit as good as you can, whatever the feedback. You’re gonna get knock backs, probably more than you’d ever want, but they’re part of your lesson - part of your journey - to becoming a better maker.