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.

Imperfec

I may have reached a point sometime within the last few months where I’ve decided that how a piece of art makes me feel, and what thoughts it evokes in me, is more important than its mechanics.

This is significant, I think, because I’ve thought less of this approach to art in the past, sometimes ignoring my experience of a work to analyze the details. Counting trees—hell, climbing and mapping and naming them—instead of just perceiving the forest.

My experience of the forest isn’t diminished by a couple of names carved in one trunk, or a crumbling stump in a clearing. I have the whole, and I feel something walking through it. Its imperfections are natural. We take it in stride that nothing is perfect. I’m trying now to understand what’s important about a work, despite its imperfections.

Maybe sometimes there are too many, perhaps a clear cutting has occurred, or a fire has swept through leaving sorry ashen spikes. Maybe a film has too terrible a performance (or no good ones) or a painting exhibits dull choices and clumsy technique. I do think some works are probably objectively bad.

But if imperfection is only natural, maybe you can see and praise and ponder the things that have value, or are evocative, or powerful. Maybe there isn’t so much time to spend on the other things.

Traditions

How very human it is to desire rituals. They’ve been part of who we are as long as history, and almost certainly from the dawn of us becoming human in the first place.

We’d love to be iconoclasts, smashing the stuffy conventions and customs of the past. But it might be detrimental to be too enamored of the new. We still find truth and connection in our traditions, and that desire for them may well fill a biological need.

There is such a thing as going too far, creatively, if we lose a work being relatable.