No Surrender

What’s the closest you’ve come to giving up and doing something else?

Every pursuit of a creative profession is different. I learned I will not stop being a designer a couple years ago. I was more anxious about a poster project than I had been for any other I’d ever worked on. I feared my career was on the line.

Momentarily, peace of mind came with the realization that even if the project is dropped completely, it’s not going to erase my ability to, or interest in design. In my head to that point, my entire career was at stake with each gig…

That’s an insane way to work. Operating that way makes the work suffer. It’s a disservice to you, your clients or audience, and anyone you care about. Do not do that.

It’s a weird topic…giving up. It can be interpreted different ways. It can be smart. Realizing you’re not equipped for whatever it is you’re doing, and putting your time and energy elsewhere…could be brilliant. It can be looked down upon…seen as not having the strength to work toward and achieve a goal. And it can be a bunch of other shit too…likely filled with corporate buzz words I don’t really want to use. So with that, let’s get to the thoughts of some amazing creative people.

Below, I have Dick Zigun, Joanna Hausmann, and Midnight Marauder to describe brushes they’ve had with creative instability, how, and why they persisted…


Dick Zigun,
Founder of the Coney Island Circus Sideshow

Dick founded Coney Island USA in 1980 and since then, has dedicated his life to the unordinary. Coney Island is a magical place, and Dick has everything to do with it’s modern identity. Coney is among the main elements in the make up of New York City. At the same time, it kinda has nothing to do with New York, and can even feel like something far, far away. It’s got it’s own thing going.

Dick established, and maintains that identity. He’s a complete, true creative, and seems hell bent to show the world that it can be seen differently. That’s what I’m shooting for as a creative, too. I don’t know Dick, at all, but he was wonderful enough to tell me a bit about himself…


What’s the closest you’ve come to giving up and doing something else?

“In Fall of 1995 we lost the lease on the Boardwalk building that had been our headquarters for 11 years. Half our Board of Directors resigned & we obviously had no funds & no right to keep on. I made a personal choice to lease another building on Surf Avenue, the 100 year old NYC landmark we now own…but at the time colleagues thought I was insane & I questioned my sanity as well. I maxed out credit cards to buy building materials I couldn’t afford & took a F/T outside job to keep our staff going. I lived in a tiny room with 2 snakes 2 cats and a dog.

For years I lived in the sideshow building with no real life of my own but…EVERYTHING good that’s happened since that insane decision 21 years ago has been the direct result of the insane 1995 choice when I should have given up & gotten a job teaching college.


Joanna Hausmann,
Comedian/Writer

In most instances, Joanna’s brain is likely to be in three places at the same time. Here, there, and everywhere. Her comedy and writing are manifestations of that. She’s studied, quick, and two steps ahead of you, albeit in a different direction…

I get the sense that she’s searching, creatively speaking. As a collaborator, that’s incredible to work with; it’s ideal. In my case, she makes me a better designer. That was not an alliance I expected to gain when I met her, a comedian.

I got to work with Joanna every day at a website called Flama, which previously employed us both. She’s now a correspondent on Netflix’s Bill Nye Saves The World, and a regular performer with the Upright Citizen’s Brigade in New York. Here’s what she’s got to say…

What’s the closest you’ve come to giving up and doing something else?

“I think about giving up all the time. Every single time I have an audition I get so stressed I wonder what my life would be if I had a “normal” job with benefits and Keurig machine. Every time I have a big show I try to convince myself I don’t have what it takes to make people laugh. Every time I press send to an email that has a writing sample I spent days agonizing over attached to it, I think “this is stupid Joanna, you wasted your time.” I did the math. I have these sabotaging thoughts at least twice a month. And I used to take them seriously …. now I don’t.

The thought of quitting is never fueled by indifference; it is fueled by fear. The fear of failing. The fear of being judged. The fear of realizing my dreams are silly and unattainable. It’s seems easier to just quit and never find out what you fear the most; I’m not good enough. Once I realized the thought of quitting is actually a reflection of how much I cared, I knew I would never quit. The thoughts will come. And they will come religiously. But when they do, I know it’s a sign I’m doing something I fear which means I’m doing something right.


Midnight Marauder,
Designer

When I look at the film posters Midnight Marauder has made, I feel I’m spending a single moment with the film. His choice of image, what other image(s) it’s paired with, the colors, and type, all let me know what it’s like to live within that film.

He’s incredibly profound and articulate with the most basic ingredients…image, color, type, and composition. That’s it. His work is tonal, and atmospheric…it tells me very specifically what I’ll see, and so very little at the same time. That’s the perfect bait to get me to a movie. It’s simple, pretty, and enticing.

I’ve admired his work for a long time, and was thrilled to learn a bit about his background…

What’s the closest you’ve come to giving up and doing something else?

“That’s a pretty refreshing question. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that before from anybody.

It’s definitely happened quite a few times, I’ve had some major set backs and failed a few times along the way. I don’t want to give up … I don’t want to give up on myself or my family. I’ve always wanted to work in film and I kinda fell into graphic design cause I failed in comic books and illustration. So this means everything to me. My passion is that strong and I won’t give up, ever !!


Whether it’s staring you in the face, or something you always notice at just a bit of a distance, that fear of everything going south always seems to be there. Ain’t that some shit.

You have to respond and adjust to the circumstances before you in order to survive. Change, and grow, yes…but give up, nah.

More info on Dick at coneyisland.com.
More info on Joanna at joannahausmann.com, or youtube.com/johaus89.
More info on Midnight Marauder a midnight-marauder.com.
Header image by Derek Gabryszak.

Thanks for reading Question Market 8!

Derek

My Ideas Are Great, I Think

What part of your creative process causes you the most stress or anxiety?

There’s a group of posters in the Museum of Modern Art by a graphic designer named James Victore. His work and general attitude are loud, and aggressive, and incredible. During a Q&A several years ago, I asked how stress affects his work. “Well shit, Doc…how much time do you have?” he said.

A lot of stress in creative jobs is self-generated. There’s very little right and wrong in what we do. A lot is left up to subjectivity. I’m right, you’re wrong…none of it matters really…you are right, I am wrong. And the other way around. It’s always this way.

That’s how I see stress in creativity. Constantly, I’m wondering and poring over the question…is this decision right?

Here’s a glimpse of that from a designer, comedian, and helicopter pilot.


 JESSICA HISCHE,
Designer/Author

Jessica is quite simply one of the best young designers America has to offer.

She’s created incredible work for some of the largest and most respected companies, people, and institutions there are to work for. So with that, I’m thrilled she’s as grounded as she is talented and gave this glimpse in to her creative process.

What part of your creative process causes you the most stress or anxiety?

“I’m probably the most stressed out right after I get off the first creative call with the client, before I have time to sit and think and scheme about what I want to do. Once I sit down to research and brain storm, I feel so much better about the project as a whole. Another time I generally feel stressed out is when pricing a job. It never gets easy for certain kinds of jobs.”

BRUCE HAFFNER,
Helicopter Pilot/Photographer

Bruce drives a helicopter around while photographing things for a living. What an insane combination of disciplines. Please read the following, but absolutely look at his incredible video reel to properly understand what exactly he captures while high up in the sky.

I discovered Bruce several weeks ago because Twitter is amazing. He’s a photographer, television broadcaster, and helicopter pilot and works primarily in service of the entertainment and news industries.

His work is amazing and that’s why I’m fascinated with what his working relationship with stress and anxiety is…

What part of your creative process causes you the most stress or anxiety?

“The anxiety comes as we broadcast live reports from our airborne production studio and since our reports are “Live” we only get one chance to get it right. Coordinating our “Live Shots” with the TV station’s control room producer via two-way radio, coordinating helicopter shot location with the pilot, the pilot coordinating with the air traffic controller, thinking of what I’m going to say live on TV during our report, cueing up recorded video to hot-roll live which helps tell the story, keeping our fingers crossed the live TV signal from the chopper to the viewers homes stays locked are some of the details behind the scenes of the live report you see on-air. When everything goes smoothly it’s a beautiful symphony, but with so many links in the chain anything can go wrong and it is common. Then I have to ad-lib while I quickly work out the problem live on TV while making it seem natural. We fly everyday and produce a bunch of aerial television so we get a lot of practice.

I was a television news photographer on the streets for 13 years winning 15 Emmy Awards before I learned to fly the helicopter. Those years of experience working on the ground really helps me in the air, I understand the big picture and where we fit in.

A highlight in my career was recently flying actor/comedian Will Ferrell and dropping him off in center field during a baseball game for the HBO special “Will Ferrell Takes the Field”. The final approach into the stadium could have been stressful but Will was so cool, he made the landing fun. The beauty of my job is that I’ve never had to work a day in my life, I’m fortunate to have chased my dreams… and caught them.”


JEN KIRKMAN,
Comedian/Author

Jen is the shit. She’s funny and smart and intellectual and a potty mouth and a bunch of other great things. I’ve worked for her in little bits and she’s always been friendly and attentive.

She’s a veteran comedian, a New York Times best selling author, actor, writer, and has a new special on Netflix. She’s a perfect example of a creative professional and because of all that I also assumed she’d have valuable insight on stress in the creative process.

What part of your creative process causes you the most stress or anxiety?

“The most terrifying part of the creative process is that I don’t schedule time to be creative. I don’t sit down from nine to five in a coffee shop to “write jokes.” My jokes just come to me. I write about my life so I should say that the way to talk about things in my life just comes to me. I’ll go through phases where I physically feel energized and my head feels full – like if somehow a head cold could feel good – I feel foggy and stuffy and full of ideas that have to come out. I’ll usually take walks or just be in my apartment with lots of coffee and wait. And when things start to shake out of my head I make notes. Wherever I am I make notes. I’ll write them on paper or I’ll put them in my notes section of my iPhone. Words and phrases like “Mom met Paula Deen” or “eggs assault small talk” that make no sense to me but are at least five minute stories that are very intricate.

So, when those moments of inspiration DO NOT COME for a while – I worry that I’ll never think of anything funny again. I beat myself up for not being the type of comic who sits and writes every day and I feel it’s too late to learn and I don’t want to learn and I then I start spinning out. No one would know I’m spinning out – this is all done in the privacy of my head.

And eventually the writer’s block is over and more thoughts come to me – and then I’m back to thinking I’m so divinely inspired totally forgetting that a few minutes earlier I thought I was a piece of shit who doesn’t know how to write. And this repeats forever basically.”

Was this decision right? The stress and anxiety that goes along with creative professions is complicated.

More info on Jessica at jessicahische.is.
More info on Bruce at chopperguy.com.
More info on Jen at jenkirkman.com.
Header image by Brett Mikoll, and Derek Gabryszak.

Thanks for reading Question Market 4,

Derek