What Nobody Tells Beginners…

In the video above, Ira Glass has articulated so well what I’ve been thinking for years. I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked:

“When should I start designing? Am I too young? Am I good enough?”

My answer is always “You are never too young and you will never be good if you don’t try,” but I’m grateful someone like Ira has more accurately expressed the importance of trying and the inevitability of failure in the beginning. I’m sure you’ve heard of the 10,000 hour rule or even the 1000 hour rule by now but if somebody had told me this in the beginning perhaps there would have been a lot less tears, heartache, second-guessing, and overall insecurity about why I was having so much trouble achieving what I wanted to achieve. I knew I was better than what I was churning out at times yet I blamed myself at every turn but now I know…

The overwhelming odds are that your best work WILL NOT be at the very beginning of your career and THAT’S OKAY.

It is through trying and failing that you will learn everything you will need to be successful. You can sit at home reading every book and watching every movie but until you step out onto that set you will never know what you yourself are capable of. You may fail- in fact you will very likely make every beginner’s mistake known to man no matter what you read in the past telling you what not to do. However it is by making those mistakes that you will learn over a course of time what works and what doesn’t… and for the people who put you down or stand in your way on your journey forward -> FUCK ‘EM! After all, the best revenge is massive success. Remember that and you’ll be fine.

To Beginners: What is your biggest fear about getting started and getting better? To Veterans: How long did it take you to attain a certain level of excellence or at the very least feel comfortable in your position? What’s the best advice you were given in the beginning that helped you along?

Rose Lagacé | @artdepartmental

Source: David Shiyang Liu

Posted by Rose Lagacé

Rose Lagacé is a production designer for film & television by day and an emerging filmmaker by night. Rose is also the creator and editor of Art Departmental where she celebrates the art and craft of production design.

  1. Brian Cauley (@briancauley) August 17, 2011 at 2:19 PM

    Such a great point that I try to remind myself of daily. My biggest fear about getting started is the idea that my work will not live up to my very high expectations. I am so focused on being the best that putting anything out that is sub-par brings great hesitation in all stages of the creative process. Even saying it out loud takes away some of that fear’s power. (sigh of relief).


  2. katie macgregor (@katiemacgregor) August 17, 2011 at 3:32 PM

    I don’t think.. I just do! Its when I start to over think the situation or the work-self doubt sets in. But thats never a bad thing… if we didnt question our own work then we wouldn’t be able to learn from it. Also I find that talking through ideas with someone really helps me to fully visualise my ideas. It also helps to develop your work further, pushing it into directions you would never have considered before.
    But my biggest fear — is letting someone down. Knowing your work isn’t liked is probably the most daunting thing.


  3. Leaving a great impression on the people I work with is what I constantly worry about. It doesn’t help that you never know where your next job will come from… but in my experience, showing up and working hard goes far.
    Additionally, I’ve learned to never underestimate the power of just committing to something and going with it, even if it turns out to be wrong.


  4. I find it imperative that us artist share this perspective with other artists. Otherwise, we will go mad. When I began film school and told a veteran DP I wanted to be a DP, I was told it would take 10 years to be one. That was the best advice, a “heads up”, I ever received because it seems accurate. That and “shoot everything” which is also a part of Ira’s piece and very good advice.


  5. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something. It’s a complicated business and you’re entire career will involve learning new things. Also, don’t get overwhelmed by the process. I was working on a backlot project many years ago and had only previously done a TV series. I stood on the lot one day and looked around at the 450 carpenters working on a project that involved over 300 facades and started to panic. I told the Supervising Art Director that I wasn’t sure I was ready for a project that big and he told me about his first carving class. The instructor brought out a big ornate carved panel and asked the class if they could reproduce it. Everyone shook their heads “no”. The instructor pointed to a small leaf in the center and asked, “What about this leaf. Do you think you could carve this leaf?” The class nodded “yes”, that was easy. “Well”, he said, “this panel is nothing but a whole bunch of leaves and flowers and stems and grapes. So if you just take it one leaf at a time it’s really not a bid deal.”


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