A few months back I had the opportunity to give my very first talk. I was thrilled that I was going to be able to speak about type. What could be better? Well the fact is, for the first time in a long time, I was actually a little nervous. I would be speaking to editors, designers, and photographers in the field of education from all over the United States. I would lead a type hunt through the downtown area then bring everyone back for my presentation.
True to form for me lately, I waited until the last minute to finalize my presentation in keynote. I’ve known about this for weeks, why did I wait so long? I guess I was kind of afraid. I was afraid that I wouldn’t know what to say or how I would say it. I was afraid that if I practiced too early that I would forget my talking points or sound rehearsed. But the fact of the matter is that deep down I was a little scared.
This is really unlike me. I have zero problem getting up in front of people and talking. But I have come to realize that I have imposter syndrome just like everyone else sometimes. My brand of imposter syndrome has to do with not saying the right thing or getting mixed up or not having the research memorized to backup my points.
Having fear in design, before a presentation, or in life in general can hold us back if we let it.
But something I tried to remember that day was that I shouldn’t try to not be afraid, I just need to be brave.
I have a very dramatic 8-year old daughter, and she is often “scared” to do new things. What we tell her is that it’s okay to be scared. We aren’t telling her she can’t or should not be afraid of something but that being brave means that she moves forward and does the scary or hard thing anyway, in spite of her fear.
This was a lesson I had to remind myself of that day; and guess what, it worked. I reminded myself that “hey, I know this stuff”. And I was able to really dig into my presentation.
Designers have to face fear every day.
Unlike an accountant or engineer whose job is based on numbers and calculations, our jobs as designers (though we build from research) can be highly subjective.
We are constantly afraid of making the wrong decisions, or of not saying the right thing to a potential client, we are afraid of not knowing how to execute a certain element of our design–I could go on forever. Our fears as creatives can be limitless.
The only way to get around these fears is to accept that they are there, take a deep breath, and do the thing anyway. This is creative courage. This is being brave.
Creatives have to have more courage
than a lot of other jobs out there. We are no longer kids showing our parents that thing we drew that goes on the refrigerator. Sometimes when we design it feels like that tree that fell in the forest
with no one around, does anyone know it fell?
Does anyone know we poured blood sweat and sometimes tears into that poster or logo or website? Maybe not, but that’s why we, of all professions have the opportunity to exercise our bravery.
We can do the hard work and put it out there in spite of our fears. Bravery requires risk, creative bravery is no different. Creative leaders push forward in spite of fear or apprehension and when they push with confidence others admire that and want to follow.
Bravery is not fearlessness, it is controlled fear. Creative courage is the same. It is learning to control your fear (of rejection especially) and do your work anyway.
The difference between a leader and a follower is not that the leader knows everything. A leader knows enough to make decisions and follow through with them with confidence.
Brave leaders are not fearless–they have just learned how to harness their fear and move forward anyway.
If you have a desire to be a creative leader–in your school or work or community–you must embrace your fears and walk forward knowing they are there but that they will not keep you from doing what you were meant to do.
Being a leader in design is no easy task. It’s definitely not something I’m ready to say I am all the time just yet. I do know this, that as long as I don’t let my fears and misgivings hold me back, that someday I will be.
I hope you too, will brave the creative path you were meant to take. Design is a wonderful world. I hope you’ll join me here, because design matters.