Checking In

Forging ahead with all speed is great for productivity. But productivity is beginning to seem like an end goal, rather than a means to an end.

Along with checking in with yourself, now and again, to see how you’re feeling and catch bigger emotional issues before they start affecting the rest of your life, we should check in on our creative work.

Stepping back, getting the big picture, seeing the forest . . . whatever metaphor you’d like, make sure you’re going in a direction you like and building toward a thing that matches your vision for it.

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.