It is always easier to give advice than to take it. It’s all very well for me to say, “Have a point of view and make sure you express it in your work,” but between advice and execution there is often somewhat of a gap. If you’re lucky, you have oodles of self-confidence, and personal judgement doesn’t frighten you at all.* Most of us, though, are stuck dealing with the soul-crushing snakes of self-doubt and just keep slithering back down to Start. In the great Game that is Life,** attitude makes all the difference.
The thing is, when our work becomes personal, all of a sudden the reaction people have to it can seem like equally personal judgement. It’s an incredibly difficult tightrope act, balancing creative vulnerability and professional detachment and, frankly, there are days when I’d prefer to deal with the unicycle and the chainsaws and that famous ringmaster’s cry, ’We couldn’t find the safety nets, hope you don’t mind.’
The trick, and this may sound ridiculous but hear me out, is to know what you want to say.
Yep. The trick to saying what you want to say is simply knowing what it is.
Of course, you cry! Why did I not think of that? Thank you, Miss Obvious! And to you, I respond, You’re welcome. Because it is that simple, and then again it’s not. It takes time and reflection and research and experiences and a whole lot of hours spent staring at our work with the gloomy conviction that we have no idea what the heck we’re doing. Being creative is work, and lots of it, and if anyone ever told you differently, then honey, they lied to you, and I give you full permission to go hunting for them with a great big wooden bat full of rusty nails.***
Depressed yet? Don’t be. Because this is actually quite a simple concept. If you know what you’re talking about, all of a sudden it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Know your concept inside out and backwards and, miraculously, the idea itself becomes an entity in its own right. Suddenly, it’s not you yourself under fire, and that is an incredibly freeing thing. Of course, you may still be questioned for the decisions you’ve made, but since you know what you meant to do, you’ll be able to come back with justification (even if it’s just internal. There’s a time and a place for back-talk; you’re hearing this from a back-talk expert, so, believe me, hard experience has taught me that of which I speak).
Equally, this objectivity frees us to accept the negative aspects of our execution and to learn from them. The best of us are not always right, and most of us, especially when we’re starting out, are not (yet) the best. This is perfectly all right. It’s all about the learning and the trying and the trying again when you mess up. Keep on chugging, and the recognition will come as a by-product of all the rest. Worst that can happen is you get a reputation as a good sport.
Wanna read more? Tune in next time as I shake things up with a movie review.
*Or conversely you hate everyone, and therefore who cares, but in that case I’m not sure I’d envy you quite as much. Not that you’d care, right?
**Blame Game of Thrones for this awkward metaphor; they’ve been harping on about ladders and climbs for three days straight. Maybe I should watch less tv.***This permission may not hold up as your defense in court. Be warned.^