I haven’t got any work on. There, I’ve said it. I’m not busy. I’d love to dress it up as a sabbatical, being between projects, or taking some much needed time for reflection; but it’s not. Simply, there isn’t any work coming in. I wonder why my gut instinct is a desire to repackage it; what am I trying to hide, what am I afraid of, for whose benefit?
Aside from the immediate financial implications of not having enough work coming in, which are legion, there is an incredible stigma attached to how I feel, a sense of embarrassment, shame; and as anyone with at least a fleeting bar-stool psychologist’s interest will readily observe; embarrassment, or rather fear of embarrassment is a prime behavioural driver. So why do I find it embarrassing? In a disposable industry where you’re as good as the last thing you did, if you haven’t done anything in a while, then it follows that you’re not very good, doesn’t it? Only, it’s not solely a design industry specific thing. Under the market forces / supply and demand paradigm, if you’re not busy, then it’s because what you do isn’t in high demand. Good things are always in high demand, aren’t they?
(A quick click on send and receive, just to check. No, still nothing; like it’s somehow a panacea to the deafening quiet or a substitute for real work and by real work, I mean paying work, because that’s the only kind that ultimately has any validity, right?).
But here’s the paradox, if things that are intrinsically good are always in high demand, then all of this, advertising, marketing, whatever is fundamentally a massive waste of everyone’s time.
You can extrapolate this to the conclusion that an awful lot of what we do is manufacture demand, we ultimately create want for substandard or unnecessary products. But it’s ok, as long as everyone is busy; intoxicatingly busy. Take the money, stick a couple of glossy visuals in your portfolio, notch up another one for the client list, drop the big names to a steadily growing base of followers on twitter, share your wins on Facebook.
It’s shit, but this is how we measure our relative success. This has very little to do with problem-solving, unless you keep one hand spare, so you can count the digits on the rare few projects that slipped past client services, relatively unspoilt, that you got away with. It has even less to do with the principles of good design practice, the idea that design might actually inspire or help to elevate the intrinsic goodness of things, educate people, or tell engaging stories about people with integrity or things that have purpose.
All of which is quite clever, but intellectualising it doesn’t necessarily change how it feels. If this is how we measure our successes, then not scoring well, as such, can easily become a mark of failure. In honesty, it’s this fear of failure that haunts me; cognitive dissonance and all.
I wonder if it isn’t a quintessential part of being creative; that putting your ideas out there always involves a degree of vulnerability? Learning to fail and failure are not the same thing. The alluring busyness of doing work that follows trend, garners fame and attracts more-of-the-same work may bring a ready-made version of success; but in bypassing personal processes and conscious decision-making, it leaves a void in its passing.