Is it laziness, or is it a fear of failure?

Is it laziness, or is it a fear of failure?

Words and imagery by Lottie Canto, an image-maker and creative person who graduated from Plymouth University in 2018. He also builds and designs his own guitar pedals, which you can view on his Instagram here or even buy from his shop too. You can also find out more about his practice via his website!

Many creatives have worked their entire lives to get to where they are today. Sometimes when you have put so much time and energy into something, the one thing that stops you in the end is the fear of failing. Fear that nobody will like the style you’ve worked for years perfecting. Fear that nobody will buy the product you’ve been working on. Or just fear that you’ll just end up working in retail forever. Sometimes this stops you putting work out there, and in worse cases it can even stop you making work.

This fear of failure is also incredibly common for graduates of creative degrees. You’ve got all that debt, your whole family watched you graduate, and now you have to explain to them now why you’re working in Topshop instead of a lovely well-paid art job.

Before I left university, I had a conversation with one of my tutors about what I was planning on doing after I left. I was honest and said I really didn’t know. He gave me two pieces of advice which have stuck with me and I hope will also help you. The first piece of advice was:

“Always introduce yourself as an artist.”

(Or maker, designer, illustrator etc). Even if you work full time in a café and you haven’t sold any of your artwork in years. You are still an artist. Your current situation in life doesn’t devalue your skill and creativity, and you must act as such.

The next piece of advice he gave me was possibly the most important and ties in with the first one:

“You can only ever fail as an artist by quitting”.

I regularly remind myself of this, especially when business is bad or I’m having a creative block. I haven’t failed until I’ve given up completely.

One of my biggest creative influences is James Murphy, the singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist behind the band LCD Soundsystem. As I’m an illustrator, it may seem odd that my biggest idol isn’t also an illustrator, but James Murphy has taught me a few things about being a creative that I never learned in art school.

A few years ago, a friend of mine sent me a link to an interview with Murphy. He outlines his struggles with laziness. How he dropped out of college to pursue music, but then stopped making music. But he eventually realised it wasn’t laziness, it was actually a crippling fear of failure. Having always been the “precocious and smart” guy, he felt that there was a lot of pressure on him to be as creative as possible, and to keep making interesting and exciting things. With this, it can get to the point where the pressure is just too much to handle, and you just quit (which as we know is the only way you can really fail). And to be honest, the person who’s putting the most pressure on you, is usually yourself.

I suppose the reason I wanted to write this article is because I’ve been down the path of hating myself because I was lazy. And being frustrated because I was so aware of it, but couldn’t do anything about it. If you take anything away from anything I have said here, it should be this: If ever you are frustrated at how lazy you are, it’s always worth asking yourself “am I just scared of failure?”. And remember, the only way you can truly fail is by giving up entirely.

To quote another fabulous musician Marc Rebillet:

“Nobody gives a fuck about your creative integrity, none of it matters. All that matters is you’re here, working, making shit!”.

Couldn’t have put it better myself to be honest.

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