Trying to pin-point what inspires you is a pretty uncomfortable experience. Personally, I find it pretty hard to identify any one thing because (a) it’s in a constant state of flux, and (b) I’m suspicious that once I name my muse, our already fragile relationship will be strained to the point of severance, and she’ll leave me for good with nothing left but a mortgage and a drinking problem. But from this feeling of fear, I did in fact find one source that drives me to inspiration: that of flopping.
The fear of failure, of not being any good at what I do and failing at it, will motivate me more than any ambition, goal, or idea-quest, ever could (like James Brown said, ‘Ain’t nothing goin’ on but the rent.’).
I don’t ever start out looking for that idea that’ll change the world, that one idea no one has ever done before, or even the selfish show-off, this-will-get-’em-jealous, idea. Starting on a brief I’m much more concentrated on excelling at mediocrity, because at least then I know I’ve achieved a standard, one I can build on from there, and if anything at all I know the result doesn’t make things worse.
It may sound defeatist, or pessimistic, but I guess it’s my way of inspiring myself to push on. To incrementally make each and every job the best it can be, and to raise the standard every time. Fear of failure may not always make me produce the best piece of work in succession, but it damn well makes sure I try.
Craig Oldham is a designer at Music.