Browsed by
Month: January 2018

Your Worst Thing Is Someone’s Best

Your Worst Thing Is Someone’s Best

Most of us who love a certain medium to the point we could (or do) create lists of our favorite or what we’d consider the best examples will hardly hesitate to question the examples of others. It’s almost a truism that someone next to us who loves or lauds a work we think is awful is up for scorn, or at least a severely-raised eyebrow. Conversely, we might feel compelled to argue them into liking—or at least acknowledging the worth of—a work we think is fantastic.

The trouble is that no one is objectively right, here. It makes as much sense for us to be wrong as any other person. Further, your thoughtful analysis is no more necessarily correct than my gut reaction after the fact. Equal amounts of thought or consideration of the work might allow each of us to put the other person on equal footing, but it won’t change the basic fact: someone is going to love the thing you think sucks.

This phenomenon is an opportunity to be generous of spirit. It’s a valuable tool for artists and observers of art, alike. We need to be able to see our opinions in new ways, and to downplay their objective truth, by turn. Creators can only benefit by rethinking our opinions of the work of others, not to mention our own. We might find new appreciation of stuff we’ve dismissed, and improvements to our own we’d never seen before.

Train Keeps a-Rollin’

Train Keeps a-Rollin’

Momentum perpetuates itself. Get a streak of anything going and it’s easier to continue on.

Once a habit of creation becomes a compulsion, it can turn into a compulsion. For art, this is nearly always to the good. It overcomes doubt, outweighs sloth, and undermines indifference.

All night long. With a heave and a ho.

Discriminating

Discriminating

Clickbaity title, I freely admit, but I’m specifically talking about the picking-and-choosing-things kind of discrimination, not concerning people.

My friends and I were talking about the firehose of media, which is, of course, a rather definitive first world problem of having way too much available for one person to take in. Nobody can possibly keep up with all the TV shows, nor movies, nor books, nor podcasts, nor music being churned out. And beyond that, there are blogs, vlogs, streams, and comics (both web and dead tree). Never mind all the bleeding video games I can’t even start.

We make our choices of the most appealing media to consume and favor, and have to chuck a big portion of the rest. But recognizing this isn’t sad, it means we have to value our time and our attention. While social media companies are trafficking in that very attention, it’s time to reconsider how precious and limited it is.

You’re worth taking a stand for the things you enjoy and eschewing what you don’t. The things we then choose become commensurately more valuable, themselves.

Too Much to See

Too Much to See

There’s too much stuff out there to experience it all. Every day brings a new pile of media, films, videos, TV series, books, music, podcasts—we’re drowning in it all, often happily. But we rarely talk about having to choose a narrow slice of the seams-bursting pie.

Whether we know it or not, we’ve made a choice about how much of what kind of media we’ve taken in, and we’ll continue to do so as long as our access to media (or content, if you like), remains a flood, ever rising and widening.

The kinds of things we choose should always contain a bit of the type of work we strive to create ourselves. It’s useful to see what’s come before, what fellow artists are making now, and, if we’re lucky, a bit of insight into how they made the thing that is capturing our attention.

We have to make another choice as artists: to consume less and give time to our own making. The flood doesn’t stop, and nor should we, so long as we have waters that are sincerely drawn and uniquely ours.


NOTE: Thinking about the water metaphor, I can see there could be a long series of posts exploring the symbolism of it: good, bad, and, well, innuendo-laden.

Collaboration Is the Future

Collaboration Is the Future

Group projects, co-authored work, co-operative ventures: do them. The image of the solitary artist making all their stuff out of dreams and magic alone in a white room—or dingy garret—is a trope that obscures the increase in group creation. It’s common to see group work and teams, from design to video games to film. There’s plenty of room to grow, too.

It’s healthy and inspiring to get out of your own mindset for a while and work with others to make something.

It feeds your own drive, through ideas and concepts you hadn’t or would never have thought of, and that makes returning to your own projects feel fresh. We learn from teaching, we learn from collaborating, and learning should never end. Otherwise, we can stagnate or lose touch. With the world and our muses.

Bring It On Home

Bring It On Home

What if I used a song title as the title of every blog post? Probably just confuse everyone, actually.

Having given us all an out for taking a break from our creative stuff yesterday, I have to pull it back in again. It’s time to get back to the habit of doing. It’s way to easy to keep indulging monkey mind and let it go another day, which turns into three, a week, a year.

It’s true, some geniuses blast out a veritable torrent of work all at once, having done nothing for weeks or months. But I’m no genius. You may be, but then, if so, why are you paying attention to me at all? You just need to listen to your inner muse and let your ideas flow into reality to the blueprint of your vision. Most of us, though, are fumbling a bit and trusting that eventually the thing will have a distinct shape.

Starting up, keeping the habit, working steadily toward a finished piece is going to get things done, which is the real goal. Judgment about its worth, evaluating its place in the world—that all should come from others and after something is finished.

For now, you put aside fear for an hour or three and get the mechanism of daily practice (or near as damn it) back on track.

Routine

Routine

The same old dull routine. It makes you crave a change, tired of the stuff you’ve made that’s become regular, overly familiar. When habit has become tedious, it might be time to let it go for a day.

Change is good, and taking a break from monotonous behavior of any kind can reinvigorate you, re-energize you. It might be a relief to break out of a rigid structure of rules, even when you’re the one who’s set them.

Let the routine go for once, laze around, do nothing, think about a new direction, explore your surroundings. Everything is fodder for a new making. Indulge.

Just don’t go more than a day. Be back to the habit soon to put the new fire into the old coals.

Donut Shakes

Donut Shakes

That title has nothing to do with what I’m writing about, here. I just was suddenly struck by the notion that I heard Krispy Kreme was offering such a thing in their stores, the term was weird but evocative, and I should make something with that title, at some point. But why not now? There are plenty of places I could go, bouncing off it. Not to mention, it’d make a killer band name, too. Sometimes we should go with our instincts.

Instinct is both hazard and helpmate. It is the raw stuff of the best ideas and a path to quick disaster, left to its own devices. It’s easy to become directionless, as well.

Taken for its best qualities, though, it’s a wonderful starting point. It’s freeing and energizing to let your instincts guide your process when you begin a project. I tend to get in my own way at the start, second guessing my choices and doubting my ability. If I push those fears aside and go with my first instincts, I can start something, and once started, it’s easier to continue. It’s also easier to consider, change, edit, and improve something that exists. Doubt can stop us cold before we put a brush in our hand or a keyboard under our fingers.

Discovery and Inspiration

Discovery and Inspiration

Today was one of amazing things discovered and more work than I’d planned on coding lessons. Here are some things I was amazed by:

Marcus Aurelius’s classic Meditations. I’ve read bits of it, always surprised by its continued relevancy, but here’s an e-version.

Oprah Winfrey’s impassioned Golden Globes acceptance speech about womens’ empowerment and change.

If Smashing Pumpkins were Silversun Pickups, they’d be Big Jesus.

Images constructed to refocus machine-learned AI attention away from the thing they’re trying to recognize (a bit obscure phrase, I know, but the story explains).

Art comes from the stuff we take in: all nature, human interaction, and the creations of others.

Just Out of Reach

Just Out of Reach

There’s a feeling of dread that surfaces sometimes, when you’ve been working on something a long time and it just doesn’t seem to be successfully presenting the ideas you had for it. The vision you started with hasn’t come to be.

The feeling is often temporary, a loss of confidence we all feel now and then. But if it persists, you have two choices when that feeling arrives: abandon the project, or forge ahead. I can’t say which is best, it’d depend on the circumstances and the work. If you still believe in the vision you had, it’s probably best to live with the feeling for a while, but trust in the vision until the work is done. Only then can you look back with perspective at the whole and decide what serves it and what needs fixing.

If you’ve lost the vision, though, or the connection you had to it, you might do well to move on to something else. I don’t advocate throwing it away, at least not yet. But put it out of sight for a while—a month, a year—and get your newly-refreshed eyes on it later.

Unless we believe in the work, few or no others will. You can show works that you think are less successful, but don’t show anything you don’t believe in or that’s disconnected from your vision.