I was a big fan of Mythbusters when it was on, and I'm a big fan of Adam Savage. I regularly watch/listen to his podcast on Tested.com: “Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project". I love Adam's insight into the creative process and as someone who has worked in the creative arts for many years, I know where he's coming from a lot of the time. He often puts words on experiences or feelings that I've had working as a creative in ways that I could not. One of the things that he's talked about several times on the podcast is something that I've experienced many times throughout my professional life, and he calls it "Imposter Syndrome"
Imposter Syndrome is basically the feeling you get when you're in a creative rut, where you feel like you don't belong or that you're just pretending you can do the job. You feel like you're not good enough or that you're a fraud, and you've somehow snuck into the field that you're in. You feel like someone will notice at any minute. In other words you feel like an imposter.
When I was working full time as a motion graphics artist, I had this feeling a lot. I felt like I was always working on the edge of what I could do, and I was always afraid that I would fail and be "found out". Even though many people have praised my work, and clients have often said how they wanted to work with me, to me that didn't make any difference. I never felt that what I was doing was good enough. This isn't some sort of reverse ego or anything. I've always been very insecure about my work, and I always found it hard to take praise.
I used to think that it was just me that felt this kind of insecurity about my own creativity, but talking to other people who work in the field, and listening to Adam, I've realised that this is actually quite common. There was a great comment from the Legendary photographer Jay Maisel, when he was being interviewed by Scott Kelby. (I'm sure that I'm butchering this, but the gist of it is this...) Scott asked him if he was ever got frustrated with his own work, thinking that someone who's worked as long as he has wouldn't be. Jay replied that of course he did, he just got frustrated on another level.
When it comes to photography, I have this imposter syndrome all the time. Right now I'm going through a creative rut, and I’m suffering from a bad case of it. Lately, I've been questioning everything I'm doing and again, that sense of "who are you kidding" has been coming through. I feel frustrated when I see the work of others, and in my head, nothing I do can seem to measure up. I wonder if I'm even worthy to call myself a photographer, and I keep feeling like I'll be found out as the imposter that I feel that I am. It's a horrible feeling and while some of it is rooted in my own insecurity I have to realise that this is something that many creative people experience. You just have to try and have confidence in yourself, which is hard, seen as it's something that chips away at your confidence.
So how do you get over it? Well, If I had that answer I would probably be a rich man! You just have to struggle through the rut and hope you'll come out the other side soon. Sometimes you need to take a step back and try something different. I've been very caught up with certain things lately. To try and shake things up a bit I've started shooting some film again. It's such a different process that I hope it might help. I've also been using some of my older cameras again in the hope that a sense of nostalgia might help a creative spark ignite.
The funny thing is, as much as I doubt myself, when I come away from it, I really miss photography. As much as I feel like an imposter, when I look back at some of my old photos, I know I can do good work. At the end of the day, I just have to take solace in the fact that this I something that artists have struggled with since there was such as thing as art. I wonder if some ancient caveman somewhere on the tundra felt like he should quit the cave paintings and go back to hunting and fishing.
Image by Alex Wong, Via Unsplash
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