Updated: 7/8/2021 - This post has received a TON of traffic and praise since it originally went live in 2019. It was written (beautifully written, at that) by Kaile, one of our inhouse designers. As artists continue to push boundaries and innovate through covid, we think this post is as relevant now as any time in history.
Imposter syndrome: the persistent inability to believe that one's success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one's own efforts or skills.
As I walked in, I was seriously doubting any and all ability I might have to do this right... Nervous? No. I was terrified! I was sure I was going to completely miss the mark and felt a wave of guilt that maybe I hadn’t prepared as well as I should have. Why I was even here? Wait, I’ve proved to myself time and time again that creative challenges are exciting... What was my deal this time?
Hey, I’m Kaile (like “Kylee”, but won’t be sad if you thought “Kale”). I’m a Utah-based artist on the Deník team going on 6 months now and it has been an absolute blast! I was recently assigned to direct Deník’s photo shoot, which was great... except I’ve never done anything like that in my life and was pretty sure I would pass out from nerves and excitement! This was a MASSIVE project to me and the pressure was on: 6 models, dozens of products, a photographer who didn’t have much time, and me (feeling like a total weenie).
These self-doubts run through my head on just about every project I pursue. The scariest part, every time, is right when I am about to begin... I think, “Why did they ask me to do this? What if it actually sucks? Where do I even start? Maybe I should go through just another hour of my Instagram feed for ‘inspo’...”
The vision for this photo shoot was clear in my head, but actually verbalizing it to other humans was a different story. I feared it would be a DISASTER, that I wasn’t fit to do this at all. So the night before, I word-vomited all of this to my closest creative friend. Know what he said?
“Honestly, everyone is making it up as they go. You already love doing this right? Then act like it and go for it!”
Whether or not I felt sorry for myself or scared that the world would end, the job needed to be done. You could feel how uncomfortable I was scrambling around, setting up products and trying to talk to the photographer. I kept telling myself “She might think I’m a complete idiot, but I need to do this.” The first shot I set up was not great - It was awkward, the props didn’t match the product at all, and I felt really discouraged. Fortunately, I had DeBryn, our awesome project manager, throwing me good vibes and thumbs up.
So I tried again... and again. Each new scene got a little easier and more intentional. Pretty soon, I was in the zone. I still wasn’t sure I knew what I was doing, but I was doing it and felt so much more confident.
After the shoot I obsessively refreshed my email inbox until the photos came in. Was everything absolutely perfect? Nope. But I did get what I needed and learned how I’ll absolutely nail future photo shoots. Maybe add fireworks or something...it’s undecided. But I know I can walk in there feeling 100% confident!
Being creative isn’t about making the perfect piece or delivering the best idea. It’s about taking the risk, going with the flow, and opening doors that would otherwise be shut. Whether you are just starting out or have 20+ years of experience in your career - whatever “career” means to you - the firsts are never perfect, right? But how else would you learn? You have to go for it despite all the insecurities and doubts. The best part is crossing that divide and realizing that you’re part of a whole community of “creatives” who experience the process daily.
Go for it - again and again! We’re rooting for you!
“Almost all [masterpieces] begin with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.” - Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
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Keep pushing, and face YOUR creative demons!
Kaile Akina-Schiess | Deník Brand Illustrator