Adé Hogue is a colleague of mine who not only kills it as a designer and letterer, but also encourages me daily to stop doubting and just do. He spoke at TopCon in Tennessee recently on his series, ‘Crushing Doubts’ — where he stressed that when it comes to doubt, it’s less about crushing and more about understanding.
Nicky: So — what are they?
Adé: My doubts? Shit. So, I narrowed them down to six: not good enough, too ambitious/not ambitious enough, too small of a fish, not making enough progress, nothing new to share, and merely faking it.
N: Faking it?
A: Faking it in the sense that you don’t feel you have enough credibility to tell someone else something. I feel like I’m faking it as an artist because I don’t feel like I made it to a successful point as an artist.
No matter what, you always look at yourself and think that you could be doing more or could be at a higher level than you’re at and it’s hard to tell yourself that you’ve done enough to get someone where you are. Maybe not to get them past where you are or make them the best designer in the world, or the best whatever in the world, but you can at least get them ‘here’.
N: What about ‘making progress’?
A: Every time I do something, I think — am I getting better at what I’m doing? Am I pushing myself when I take on the right projects? Or am I taking shortcuts, and doing it quickly for the money or because I don’t have enough time to do it?
Once you reach something, a certain level, you never want to go back. Why would I take on this bullshit logo for $100 just because, if it’s nothing that’s going to push me in the right direction of what I want to make in the future.
N: And what about being too small of a fish?
A: It’s hard to tell yourself that it’s okay to be just a sizeable fish. I’m not in a rush to be the top dog in Chicago, but it’s like you kind of want to be at the level that you get the projects you want, and I think that’s where we see the big fish, but it takes a lot of time, a lot of energy to get there. And it’s okay to not be there yet.
N: This kind of makes me think — and this might be a leap in a weird direction — but, I was at The Happiness Project Exhibit at the Cultural Center way back when and I’ll always remember this super surprising bit about the correlation between annual salary and happiness — the income level where money won’t make you any happier. It plateaus at like $75,000 a year or something like that. But, it’s funny because we continue to think — ah! I just gotta have more, more, more! Maybe at some point, as long as you’re getting the projects you want already, and you’re continuing to grow, you begin that plateau of where the importance of who’s bigger isn’t any more important.
A: Yeah — you’re the right size, you’re eating the things you want to eat and you’re not afraid of getting eaten. You don’t want to be the little fish, this guy that can’t get anywhere who’s going to starve to death. But maybe you don’t want to be the big fish, maybe you don’t want or need to be the top dog, the one everyone’s hunting after, y’know?
N: I fucking love that metaphor. Not being good enough is something we all battle with daily in every spectrum. Not good enough in a relationship. Not good enough in the work that we are doing. Not good enough in whatever — what do you do with that?
We bantered about never feeling like you’re going to live up to your own expectations and the abyss of deepened despair and lack of fulfillment when you compare yourself to others.
N: Instead of feeling that way, we should try to use that opportunity to appreciate all that dope shit, be around wicked talented people who are better than us, and get inspired — opposed to the alternative which is allowing it to completely tear us down.
Adé touches upon how you can only compare your self now, your self before and your self in the future. We reminisced (and cringed) for a while on how subpar our work was at the beginning, but how being able to look back on our progress is downright wildly fulfilling. Adé references carbon-dating when talking about what progress is like — “keep cutting it in half, and half, and half, and you never fucking get there.”
N: I feel like a lot of my doubts manifest when I’m in that initial thrill of a new idea that I think is dope as hell — about to just go all in.
A: And then it turns out to not be what you thought it was.
N: Exactly. And I just completely trash it. This great idea that I had, and there I go just tossing it out.
A: Oh yeah, you’ve done that! I’ve watched you in photo-shoot situations. You have this great idea going into it, you start setting up the lighting, and you’re all so fucking ready for this. Then it’s so easy for you to be like, ‘Alright, I’m just going to Photoshop this.’
N: I mean, yeah! It just gets so frustrating. And then the doubts start gushing out. It’s not going to be good enough. It’s not going to look like this one reference, or how so-and-so did it. So, how do I conquer my stupid doubts?
A: I don’t think we conquer them. I don’t think we ever conquer them. I’m sure fucking Pablo Picasso never conquered his doubts about himself as an artist. You just understand why you have these doubts. Like why do I feel like I’m not good enough — ‘Oh, its because I haven’t done it as long as them.’ If you can take those reasons and understand why, then I think you are a better person, a better designer, a better whatever you want to be. I don’t see them being conquerable.
I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like I’m good enough. And if I do — I’m in a bad place and I should be trying something different.
N: So, to be doubtful, could be kind of like relentless motivation — even though it’s the most frustrating thing.
A: Yeah. I think a lot of people get crushed by their doubts. Especially when you’re in school. Where you’re so insecure about the things that you make that you don’t want to show to any body and you don’t want to listen to what anyone has to say.
A: You’re crushed by your own doubts and your’e not willing to say, “Hey. Yes, I made this. Tell me what you think of this,” and then take the honest feedback from that person.
N: Yeah — and it’s sad! Can you imagine all the cool work that could have been produced and could have been a substantial hit if people just got over themselves and put it out there?
A: Yeah I talked about sharing for the sake of sharing. Everyone has an audience, and you’re audience isn’t going to love everything that you say, nobody is going to love everything that you say, but you have to share it nonetheless and they can decipher if they like it and if they don’t like it – fuck it.
N: And maybe your audience can just be yourself. Documenting just to document, so you can look back and see your growth or to link back up with what your thought process was.
A: It’s always tempting to go back and to delete some of my old lettering shit, and I tell myself, “No! That’s the good stuff!” My first time experimenting, picking up a brush pen. And I sucked at it, and I just kept sucking at it for a year, until somewhere along the way I finally learned how to use one.
N: I feel like continuous growth is of the utmost value. People want to work with someone who continues to grow rather than someone who’s in a holding zone with their own skill doing the same old shit. Might be great stuff, but still same old shit.
A: Yeah you gotta be trying new shit, trying new methods.
N: My junior year of high-school, I did a 365-day project. It’s when I first got a cracked version of photoshop from my boyfriend at the time and I decided to create something everyday and post it on my blog. I have insane regret taking down that blog! Ahhh! Kills me. But I DID save absolutely everything and I have it somewhere safe packed away on a hard-drive. But everything I made during that year blowed. Like, I used all these crazy brushes, lens flairs, patterns, everything had some sort of gradient-ified shit all over it.
N: You know exactly what I mean. It was all whack. Bad bad bad. But, that year was the biggest leap in my personal growth I have ever made in such a short time span. It was glorious. The frequency of just pumping shit out is what we need to be doing regularly. So when I was saying my doubts manifest from getting that exhilarating boom of an idea and wanting to just throw myself into the deep end with it — maybe I was tackling the idea and execution in a really spaz-like way. Maybe if I had just taken that idea and spread it out, tackling day by day…
A: Yeah, you got to build towards it. Test it out. And especially for you, because I know you — take the time to plan them a little bit more. Like don’t just jump right in. Take a second to chat through to make sure we have a plan. Cause sometimes you just hop in on that shit and then you’re like — Well, fuck. And that’s when you feel frustrated, when you jump in.