Insecure Creatives Only 

I’m inside the Farringdon spaceship offices of POSSIBLE. London sun has surprised everyone involved with heat but the electric air in here curls and cools. It’s an urban Sahara out there. 

I’ve wandered in, unknowingly by-passed reception and been shown to an empty desk. I wait. A politely offered cappuccino finds me and when I return from the bathroom, Hayley Mills has arrived, a blur of sparkled black fabric and tightly wound headscarf. 

She is speaking to a lady with tired eyes and nods in my direction as I make an awkward lurch for my notebook sitting open on her desk. Nonchalantly, I try to project a vibe which says, I’m-ready-when-you-are-but-hey-take-your-time-I’m-super-laid-back. I lean on something. 

I’m here on business. She turns and I go for the hand-shake. She pulls me into a hug. I add this interaction to the tally of times I’ve misjudged greetings in a professional relationship. We move to sit in a red sofa cut out from the wall. It’s like we’re in a diner and I start to feel more relaxed.

“I wasn’t going to apply for SCA, my best-friend did for me then mentioned it after.” 

From the little I know of Hayley, (we met at the SCA Christmas party 2013, the music was too loud) I am surprised. I raise an eyebrow, the right one. 

“I’d done PR, I knew I liked that, but I was also doing a lot of music and events and thought I wanted to get into that somehow… I’d stumbled onto the SCA website among others I was researching. Every now and then I’d go back and check it and then think, no, no, no.”

“How come?”

“I thought I wasn’t creative enough.”

We sat in one of those moments where the person who is intensely good at doing what they claim to be incapable of has just claimed to be incapable of what they are intensely good at doing.

“I nearly didn’t answer Marc’s [Lewis] interview calls… there were a few of them and when I finally picked up, I was so nervous!”

I do some nodding and listening. It’s becoming clear that nervous person’s time has ended.
“SCA put me in a place to be confident and learn how to put an idea across. Marc had said ‘this is no holiday camp’ and I’d prepared for hard-work, but I don’t think I’d really prepared, mentally.”

She pauses to draw the only breath she needs during the entire time we’re together.

“At interview day everyone was incredibly creative. All their ideas were so intelligent, it was pretty intimidating. But I think it’s the same for anyone creative. The majority are insecure. That self-doubt pushes us forward, when we’re placed in an environment where being creative is competitive, it’s pretty intense. At SCA you get an opportunity and then it’s up to you.”

She’s a digital strategist now at an agency who had her pitching to clients as their intern. Their new internal campaign: “No More Busy”.

“We noticed how often people excuse themselves by claiming to be ‘so busy’. If you’re uncomfortable saying ‘my job is more important than you’ to someone’s face, you should probably go spend some time with that person.”

Tough, true.

“You learn pretty quick your desk isn’t the be-all-and-end-all. Presence isn’t everything. It was like that at SCA too. I can say to my boss ‘I’m going out to think this over’ then disappear.”

We discuss work titles and agree “how a lot of things are labels.” She calls a senior VP over to define strategist from planner after I ask. He admits not knowing and we all chip in with how hybrid communication roles are these days. It’s agreed there’s very little difference and it’s agency dependant.

We’re all feeling pretty buddy-buddy but when VP leaves there comes a word of caution.

“It’s important not to come out of SCA and fall into the entitlement trap. We’re lucky to have some amazing people through to mentor us, it can be easy to feel like at the end of the course you have every ‘in’… Don’t choose an agency because of a name, but don’t let a name put you off knocking on the door.”

I take a considered sip of my second cappuccino and she looks away.

“Do you want some chocolate? I’m going to get some.”

She returns with three in each hand. We unwrap peanut buttercups, I don’t like peanut buttercups but she is so sunny I see it as the ideal opportunity to change my mind.

It seems like Hayley has never had a bad day in her life. As if sensing this assumed injustice she tells me, straight in the eye, “after bad experiences, I always go to sleep thinking I’ll wake up and feel the same way. But I never do. Even when I’m insecure about it, I love this. I love it.”

Thank you to Hayley Mills, Jim, John and Ian for the time and thinking. 


No comments:

Post a Comment