Who Do You Think You Are?: Creative Narcissism

By Jaylin Paschal

Originally Published on Medium

I read somewhere that all writers, especially bloggers, are narcissists.

Who else but a narcissist would think that their ideas are good enough to not only be recorded, but published? So good that if someone else won’t publish them, we’ll publish them ourselves? That our words — the literal contents of our minds — are worth payment or subscription? Who else but a narcissist would think strangers and peers care enough about their life and thoughts to spend time pillaging through them; to seek them out?

Something pretentious even feels imbedded into the implications of the word “blogger.” I almost hate telling people I am one. It just feels obnoxious. There’s an arrogance about it; an arrogance you can’t shake or avoid.

Who do you think you are? is a question that is asked to me both vocally and through body language. The shift of weight or raise of an eyebrow. But it’s a fair question. I can’t be offended. Hell, I even ask myself the same on a regular basis. (Most often this feeling comes after reading an article or looking at a logo design and thinking “I could have done this,” or more offensively, “I could have done this better.”)

Oftentimes, the creative field feels like one unending journey to prove yourself. Architect Bjarke Ingels got one of his earliest jobs building with his new company by telling his client to hire him, as he was “so fucking good.” And he proved himself not only in that project but throughout his career, as he is now respected internationally in his craft.

I’ve been in freelance for a couple of years now. And with each submission, pitch or assignment I’ve sent in, my subconscious had the same message Ingels sent out: “Hire me. Work with me. Trust me with this vision. I’m so fucking good.” Because I know I am. Or, at least I think I am. I feel I am. But in this business, feelings are only validated by opportunity to produce great work. It’s not like earning a degree or meeting a quota or scoring well on a test. There is no measure of credit or point. It’s rarely ever rewarded, except by the likes of Nobel Prizes, Pulitzers and the occasional lifetime achievement award. The only real way to see if you are as creative as you think you are — as “good” as you feel you are — is to get your hands dirty and watch the reaction.

For example, I knew my AfroPunk article on the roots of style within the black community was well-written, that’s why I sent it in. When it was published internationally after submission, I knew it was competitive, quality work. I knew a high number of likes and shares indicated the same. But it wasn’t until I read the comments from men and women across the country and all over the world responding positively — and more importantly, thoughtfully — to my work that I knew it was “good.” That I knew I could produce the article I thought I could.

“Good,” for me, and I think for most creatives, means impactful. Most of us are looking for a cultural shift; a tilt of the paradigm, no matter how minute. We’re the kids that want a say in the cultural conversation. And perhaps, more than anything, we want to see if we can do it. We want to be who we think we are.

Jaylin PaschalComment