I am now fearless. I’ve no plans to take up skydiving, or karate, or escaloptering though. The fear I’m talking about is that described so eloquently by Seth Godin in his new book, Tribes.This is post number four for my blog, and the site’s been online for almost as many months. Pitiful, isn’t it? But what you can’t see are the many draft posts that I’ve written but never published. The reason for this is fear. Not a fear of failure, or a fear of nobody wanting to read me, but a fear that I’ll be criticised by someone that knows more about my subject matter.
I started a thread about typography on Dreamless and the response was fantastic.
It stems back to the year 2001. I was working for a new media company in Glasgow with a passionate group of talented designers and programmers. I hadn’t created any work of note yet, but one thing I was not short of was enthusiasm. I was focused on bringing my love of typography into my digital work partly as a response to how poor the type was on most of this new breed of websites made with this new thing called Flash.
I started a thread about typography on Dreamless and the response was fantastic. It struck me how many people were creating high profile Flash work with no real typographic experience. I recommended a few books, including the simply wonderful Better Type, by Betty Binns and The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst. I got emails from people to thank me for pointing out the books to them and how, as a result, they had fallen in love with typography.
I then started a new thread to see if anyone was interested in helping to create a website to act as a repository for the articles we’d written, the books we’d reviewed and an accessible guide for newbies interested in learning more. Again the response was good, but after a few offers of assistance, there appeared a post by Paul.
Paul was the senior designer at the agency where I was working. I’d learned a lot from him and had a huge amount of respect for his work. I don’t remember the exact content of his Dreamless post but it went along the lines of criticising me for feeling qualified to create a website about typography when there were other people out there that knew so much more about the subject.
I can see it from Paul’s perspective now. I was a shit designer compared to him. My work was crude by comparison. It must have seemed ridiculous that I felt qualified to co-ordinate the creation of a site about typography. But I wasn’t putting myself up as an expert, I simply wanted to help facilitate the sharing of knowledge.
But that one short post killed my plans dead. I felt humiliated, and ever since have tried to limit myself to getting involved with things I know a lot about. And that’s why this is post number four.
I’m terrified at the thought of laying myself bare to this extent.
I didn’t post my article about ‘Starting in the Middle’ because there are other people out there better at planning and design. I didn’t post my article on town planning in Dubai for fear that someone would criticise me for talking about something that they know more about.
Well, this is 2009, and I refused to be paralysed by fear. I will post what’s on my mind, flaws and all. I will show work that is broken or unpolished. I will share shot’s on Flickr that I know I shot at the wrong film speed.
And I’m terrified at the thought of laying myself bare to this extent. But when the nay-sayers come, and come they will, I will take their criticism, I will admit my failings, and I will tell them to go fuck themselves.
Happy new year.