How To Tell Me Something I Want To Hear (So I Can Just Ignore It And Move On)


Don't lie to yourself. Every author out there wants to be told — yes, you included — that they are brilliant, that they have created something truly original and memorable and fun and significant and decorated with every other adjective that writers siphon blood out of themselves to hear at least once in their lives.

I'm still like this myself, and I know it. What's different at this point is that I've taught myself to be conscious of it, and to realize how little other peoples' opinions actually mean. But not in the sense that I came to know such an idea.

Let me explain in reverse. When someone says "I no longer care what other people think," and they're referring to their creative work, I've long believed they were being both brave and foolish. Brave, because every creative work requires at some point that someone listen only to themselves. Foolish, because everything that is created, and everything that creates, also exists in a continuum made up of other people and other creations, and to ignore what comes from that and how it might be instructive is a mistake.

When I say to myself, "I no longer care what other people think [vis-a-vis my work, etc.]", I'm performing a balancing act. I'm not asking other people for instructions about where to go. But I am trying to hear what they might have to say when it's not about my work that would still be useful. When they're not talking about my work, they may be giving me the most useful advice possible for it, without knowing it. The burden is on me to tease that out. They may be able to give some of the best advice I've ever heard, but only when they're not trying. It's when people try to give you advice about a specific something that it becomes less useful, in the same way that nothing is less fun than forced merriment.

Another thought. When someone says "I no longer care what other people think," it's worth wondering, do they mean that they dismiss only people who say "Don't do that, it's a terrible idea"? Or do they also dismiss those who say "Do this, it's a great idea"? Because the second suggestion can be just as bad as the first.

Artists mature in big part because they have a refined sense of what's not worth doing and why. It focuses them, gives their work direction. Sometimes that focus is about avoiding what others have already done far too many times. There are many kinds of stories I could probably tell with complete mechanical competency, but I will never bother with them, simply because there are any number of other people crowding at the doors with manuscripts exactly like those clutched in their sweating hands. And while it's true that I would be doing such a thing "in my own way", maybe it's best that I bring "my own way" to something that is entirely "my own way".

What I keep circling with all this, and with similar thoughts, is how there's a tough balance at work. It's too easy to just write everyone else off and Do Your Own Thing — and end up becoming an expert beginner, someone who achieves just enough competence to execute something but whose vision becomes unrefined and unrefinable. It's also too easy to just look to everyone else for cues about what to do and why.


Tags: advice  creativity  creators 


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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the category Uncategorized / General, published on 2018/07/05 17:00.

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