As a creative professional, one of the biggest challenges I’ve had to face is that of “optimistic misinformation”. Often, when I work on a project, my colleagues will pump up my hopes, telling me how likely the project is to become huge and how much money I’ll make when it does. What they are saying is usually not true, of course, but I don’t hold it against them.
I’ll give you an example: Early in my career I booked a pair of national commercials for Budweiser, a landmark accomplishment for me at the time. Both of the spots would feature me prominently and were to run in heavy rotation on network TV. Since I was a starving artist, I wondered right away, “How much am I going to make?” I didn’t have to ask – my agent, my manager, the director, and the producers all told me I would surely make $40,000 on each spot. That would mean $80k to me for two weeks of work. Sweet. And why wouldn’t I believe these people? They were professionals, after all, with much more experience in the industry than I had.
The problem is that they were also human beings, and people want to be liked; they want to be the stirrers of excitement and the bearers of good news. I definitely liked every one of these guys in the moment they told me I was $80,000 richer, but the reality of it wasn’t that rosy. One of the commercials never aired because it didn’t feature the beer enough, and the other had only a short network run before being shelved. In the end, I made less than a quarter of what they predicted. My representatives should have known better than to raise my expectations so high, but they couldn’t help themselves.
So, while on your path to a creative career, be aware of this phenomenon. You’ll encounter plenty of well-meaning people who will lose their professional objectivity and misinform you in the excitement of the moment. Show business and publishing are emotional, mercurial pursuits, and you can’t always defer to the credentials of your associates. You must be responsible for your own inner equilibrium, approaching your work with passion and what I call “skeptical optimism”.