The author Neil Gaiman, in a wonderful commencement speech talks about the Fraud Police. It appears around 7 minutes into this video.
The Fraud Police is an establishment that regularly hounds an artist threatening to expose his/her claim of being an arts practitioner. Once the Fraud Police catches up with them, they will lift the veil on the artist’s lie and the whole world will see them for the charlatan they really are.
But of course, this Enforcement Authority resides entirely in the artist’s head. They are 100% a work of imagination. And yet, they are every bit as real and as the tax office or the Social Services. I cannot think of a single artist friend who has never doubted his/her ability and often rely on external reiteration for what they do.
Am I good enough? Can I call myself an artist and get away with it? Am I creative? Does my work matter? Will I be found out? Such feelings of uncertainty is something every creative has to grapple with on an on-going basis.
The other day I was at a meeting and someone pointed in my direction and said something about a ‘film-maker’, I turned around and asked ‘who is that?’. And they replied, pointing to me, ‘you, that’s who’. My instinctive reaction was to say, ‘no, not me. I am just…you know…someone who points and shoots. Don’t take me seriously’. Instead I found myself sheepishly accepting that that I dabble in films and was inwardly relieved that I had pulled the wool over one more person’s eyes.
This feeling of being a fake is something that I have learnt to contend with. It does tend to fade away as I I am doing more and more work. And the work speaks for me. The fear however, resurfaces during quieter times and I walk around expecting to be unmasked at any given moment. I dread that knock on the door and a voice through the letter box shouting, ‘Open up, open up, it’s the Fraud Police!’. And I will give myself up, surrender abjectly to authority, without so much as a token of protest.