View all posts filed under 'Productivity'

Of Uniforms and Ritual

Sunday, 10. May 2020 21:41

Many things have changed since mid-March. Some of us are working from home; some of us are unemployed; a few of us are performing essential services and exposing ourselves daily to Coronavirus risk. Everyone’s life has changed.  Even those of us who have always been solitary artists have seen some change. Everybody feels off-balance, not exactly knowing what the next step might be. Part of the reason that we are feeling the way we are is the absence of uniforms and ritual in our current lives.

A friend of mine says that all successful people dress in uniforms. She did not mean, of course, literal uniforms, but rather that people whom she considers successful dress so that every day they are dressed similarly, whatever way that happens to be. For some that may be a sports jacket, button-up shirt, and jeans; for others it may be a two-piece suit. For Steve Jobs it was Levis black 501 jeans and a black mock turtle-neck shirt; the shirts were designed specifically for him by Japanese designer Issey Miyake.

Many of us developed “uniforms” that we wore pre-pandemic. One of the first things that happened when we were compelled to stay at home was the abandonment of our uniforms. Many of us quickly opted for T-shirts and pajama bottoms. Comfort seemed to be the order of the day, and changing clothes was just a ridiculous concept. However, a man I know who is one of the best-adjusted newly at-home workers I know told me that he just changed uniforms. Needless to say, he is a firm believer in the uniform concept evinced by Steve Jobs. He says that he adopted yoga pants (the loose ones—very comfortable, but a little more stylish than pajama pants or shorts) and a polo shirt, which enables him to be “camera ready” for the unannounced Skype, Zoom, or Teams calls. And shoes; he says the shoes (sneakers) are very important to feeling “dressed.” That’s his work-from-home outfit; it’s very different from his pre-pandemic wear. He says that when he’s off work, he changes clothes to help him differentiate work time and personal time. He also says having a uniform helps with his outlook and attitude.

A second thing that changed in March was our set of rituals. We all had developed personal rituals that we went through every day. Some were consciously developed; others were unconscious. Some of us did a quiet time or meditation every morning before we began our work day. Others of us went through the ritual of coffee, shower, breakfast, commute as a beginning to our days.

Suddenly, our routines changed and not only were we disconcerted and disoriented by the pandemic and its implications, but we are also absent our daily rituals that helped us begin and get through the day. This, of course, led to even more disorientation and distress. We were hit by a tsunami and at the same time became untethered from our moorings. Is it any wonder that many of us felt lost?

The good news is that we can adopt new uniforms and develop new rituals. We might do well to remember Karl Lagerfeld’s famous quote about sweatpants, which also applies to pajamas: “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.” Uniforms don’t have to be “dressy” or what we wore when we “went to work,” but they can reflect a style and an attitude that moves us forward.

Likewise we can add ritual to our day. We certainly do not have to “go to work” to have ritual in our existence; we just have to tailor the little pieces of our behavior to our current situation and then repeat those behaviors until they become rituals that inform our days. The thing about rituals is, at least according to Scientific American, is they work. We certainly don’t have to do the same things in the same order that we used to, but it would be well to do the same things in the same order every day.  The routine and the ritual thus established will comfort us if nothing else.

Many think that the pandemic will be with us for a while, certainly far longer than any of us would like. Perhaps developing new rituals and adopting a uniform that matches our new mode of working will help us cope with this new and still-unsettling way of life.

Category:Productivity | Comment (0) | Author:

Beware of the Shoulds

Sunday, 26. April 2020 22:53

So, you’re sheltering in place or you’re going to your essential job or you’re working from home or you’re passing the pandemic in some way or the other. Your situation likely is not like your neighbors’. As a matter of fact your situation is unique to you, and that’s why you ought to beware of the shoulds.

Every time you open an arts web site, some “authority” or the other is telling you what you should be doing during this time of international stress and disease. And many of them press the point so hard that if you were to take them seriously, you would feel guilty if you didn’t follow their advice. “Shakespeare wrote King Lear while quarantined; Sir Isaac Newton invented calculus while quarantined. You should do something equally spectacular.” “Make art, even if it’s bad art.” “Now that you have time on your hands, use it constructively.” “What a perfect opportunity to do research for that story you want to write.” “This could be the time for you to make your best art!” “It’s a perfect time to learn those dance steps you were talking about.” “Now you can set up that home studio.” “Now is the time to write that novel.” “This is a perfect opportunity to work on that difficult piece you want to play.” “Now you have all this time to edit that last photo shoot.” “Why don’t you work on that sculpture now that you have the time?”

STOP LISTENING TO THOSE PEOPLE!

They are not you and do not know what you are dealing with. You may feel like the world has changed completely; it has. You may feel that the rug has been pulled out from under your existence; it has. You may be spending so much time dealing with exigencies of doing your job on line that you don’t have time for anything resembling art-making. That’s okay. You may be dealing with the unbelievable stress of having to completely change your lifestyle just to survive. That’s okay too. You may just not feel like making any art today, or this week, or this month, much less attempting a masterpiece. And even that’s okay.

Those you-should-be-doings are other people’s; they are not yours. Only you know what is right for you at this particular moment in time, and, if you are anything like me, it changes from day to day. Some days you may be super-energetic about developing new ways to work from home or approaching some other project. Other days may be hum-drum. On yet other days you may be totally depressed. There is no one-size-fits-all formula. You have to take each day as it comes and deal with yourself and your situation on that day only.

And on some days you may make art, or you may not. Although it feels like we have been doing this forever, we are still just feeling our way along, trying to deal with the shock and grief and uncertainty as best as we can on a day-to-day basis. We have no idea where we’re going, but we keep inching forward. What we do NOT need to do is beat ourselves up for not being creative and productive every minute of our existence. What we are going through takes some time to come to terms with—if we ever can. Our minds will turn to art and making it when it is appropriate for us—as individuals—not according to an admonition by some smug Internet pundit.

Chapter 24 of Jerry Saltz’s How to Be an Artist, is entitled “There are no Wasted Days.” In this very brief chapter he says that “your artist’s mind is always working, even when you think it’s idling….You are your method; your life is part of your work.” And it’s true. All that time when you are trying to cope with the new reality, your creative mind is working, absorbing, combining, understanding. When it’s time for you to produce, you will produce. And just as each person’s art is unique, each artist’s method and timing is personal and distinctive.

You will make art when you feel it is time, and it will be as good as it can be. Until then, just keep living and learning—and ignoring the shoulds.

Category:Creativity, Productivity | Comment (0) | Author:

Survival Suggestions

Sunday, 15. March 2020 23:28

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many of us into isolation. If you are an artist who usually works alone, a writer or painter perhaps, this is nothing new. You are used to spending the day mostly alone. For others of us in the arts, this a new and not necessarily welcome turn of events. Suddenly, many of us who are used to working with others are being forced into solitude.  This represents a significant disruption to our daily routine and requires some changes in thinking and doing. We are forced to, in the words of the Shaftoes, “display some adaptability.” Here are a few suggestions that may help you come to terms with your new reality.

  • Turn off the television—and your Twitter feed and any other news feed you have. It’s really easy to obsess over the news which tries to grab our attention 24/7. That’s too much. I’m not suggesting that you isolate yourself completely from all news (although that might not be a terrible idea), rather that you decide which news shows/feeds you will watch and when you will watch them and when that time is up, turn them off. It is not likely that you will need minute-by-minute coverage of the current situation. You can use the time for something productive or enjoyable or both, but only if you are able to tune out of the news. The following suggestions will be possible only if you do this one first.
  • No matter your situation, it has been and will be stressful. Now that you have a little more time for yourself, use it to rest. Sleep in. Take a nap. Disengage. Allow your mind to settle. Only then can you deal realistically with your situation.
  • Take some time for yourself. Along with resting, you can use some of this unexpected “free” time to do some of the things you haven’t had time to do. That time may involve doing nothing. It may involve relaxing in the sunshine. It may involve any number of things that you consider enjoyable that you just haven’t had time for. Now you have the time; use it for your benefit.
  • Watch a movie. You know, the one that you have been meaning to watch, but couldn’t spare the time for. Streaming services are still working and will show you the movie that you’ve been wanting to see no matter the time of day or night.
  • Listen to some music. Yes, most of us have music on in the background most of the time. But when was the last time you stopped and really listened to some music? Well, now you have the time. Do it. It will enrich you in ways you can’t even think about until you do it. It will make your day better.
  • Pick a project from your list and do it. You have no excuse, so you might as well do that thing that has been on your list forever—or for a few days. Use the time that you find that you suddenly have on your hands.
  • Go outside. Let the sun shine on you. Enjoy the grass and flowers and birds. It’s refreshing both physically and mentally, and probably something you don’t do often enough. Do it now.
  • Get to that book. Whether it’s a book that you have promised yourself you would read or a book that you promised yourself you would write, now is the time to tackle it. You don’t have to do it all at once, but this is the perfect opportunity to begin.
  • Make a schedule for yourself—build a routine. While some unstructured time can be a blessing, too much can be a curse. Most of us like to operate on a schedule whether we admit it or not, so faced with an indefinite amount of unstructured time, make yourself a schedule to give that time shape and form. Not a list, a schedule—what to do when. You will find that a schedule will allow you to more productively use your time. If you are a teaching artist, you might even simulate your school schedule since you are used to it. Having a schedule and developing a routine can make all the difference in whether your newly-found “spare” time is productive or not.

Certainly these are not the only suggestions for artists to survive our new socially isolated reality, but hopefully these will help if you are having difficulty adapting to the new, hopefully temporary, normal.

Category:Creativity, Productivity | Comment (0) | Author:

Change Just One Thing

Sunday, 2. February 2020 23:54

Most pundits agree that to be really creative, we must step outside our comfort zones. Some even argue that “being an artist is about living in the uncomfortable zone.” Even writers who take issue with this idea think that to be creative in our comfort zones we must regularly get out of them to gain “new experiences and learning,” and to be more productive. Regardless of what we read on the topic, it seems that having something fresh and different in our environments can be of great service to both our creativity and productivity.

At the same time, we read over and over again that to be creative and productive we should be working in comfortable places and adhering to a fairly strict routines. How are we to reconcile this opposition of views?

The most obvious way to do this is to change something within our comfortable places and strict routines. The easiest thing to change is something physical. The rationale for this approach is that we become very accustomed to having things in certain places—to the point that we don’t have to think about them. If we move something, it is still present and useful, but it is in a different place and that creates a newness in the environment that can sometimes have surprising results.

As it turns out, several people have mentioned doing this very thing over the last several weeks. One is a theatre artist who decided to move a salt lamp that was on a very small table beside a recliner. Suddenly the very small table was able to hold a book and a coffee cup, and a new reading nook had been created. This changed where she did some of her reading, which, in turn changed some of her reading habits and general traffic patterns. She is still getting used to this new reading place and is tracking how many other changes will flow from just this simple modification.

A photographer I know who has two “changeable” walls in his home. He says that he changes out pictures on these two walls at irregular intervals, and that those changes are so powerful that they transform the spaces, which in turn causes his thinking to change when he’s in those rooms. This, he claims, makes the environments more creative.

Another photographer I know does essentially the same thing with wall calendars. She says that the changing of several images once a month spark ideas that she would not otherwise have had.

And yet another person, a writer, says that in the past he has had trouble getting to end of non-fiction books. What he did to overcome the problem was to move the current non-fiction from his reading spot or bookcase to a very conspicuous place where he would have to pass it regularly. This would discomfit him and he would be compelled to pick the book up and proceed toward the end.

What all these people have in common is that they changed a very small part of their environments, and those changes provided just enough newness or difference to make a creative difference in their work. A small change is enough to push us just a little outside our comfort zone for a short amount of time, so we can have the best of both worlds.

All we have to do is change just one thing. Try it.

Category:Creativity, Productivity | Comment (0) | Author:

The Gift of Unstructured Time

Sunday, 8. December 2019 21:55

Americans reportedly work more than workers in any other developed country. Some would say that our work ethic is the result of Puritan influence; others might blame it on our no-holds-barred capitalism. Whatever the reason, we spend a lot of time working.

And if we are artists, it’s even worse. Because we like what we do, we tend to spend an enormous amount of time working. Added to that is the pressure to produce, particularly in the current social media environment. Jonas Jödicke has described the present-day pressure to produce this way:

 

So we work. And some of us try to follow the advice of so many successful artists from Khaled Hosseini,  to Julia Cameron and work with discipline, which means working on our art at a set time every day or working a certain amount of time every day. And many of us work at our art literally every day. Working with discipline often requires schedules and organization. And, as anyone who is a regular reader of this blog knows, I, for one, am a great believer in schedules, organization, structure, and lists. For anyone similarly disposed, this bent of mind facilitates the further structuring of our work time.

And structuring our work time can lead to structuring our other time as well, particularly if we are busy.  This leads to structuring all of our time. And while such structure might make us remarkably productive and organized, it can also have a deadening effect on our creativity. We find ourselves locked into our schedules and operating much like machines. What to do?

The solution sounds oxymoronic. We simply need to schedule unstructured time.  That is, we need to periodically set aside an amount of time during which there is no structure, during which nothing is scheduled. We can then use this time to think, dream, create, play the guitar, play with the cat, wash the dishes, weed the garden—or all of the above. That’s the point; it’s a time during which nothing is planned. This can be scary the first time, particularly for those of us who are schedule- and list-driven. And there is the fear of being bored, but creative people can always find something to do, and the discovery of new things to occupy us is one of the positive results of unstructured time. Once we accept the idea of unstructured time, there is yet another danger: planning what we will do during our scheduled unstructured time. This, of course, negates unstructured time. Once we plan what we will do, the time becomes structured. And even if we are addicted to being busy, we can busy ourselves during our unstructured time—just doing unplanned things. It’s like kindergarten recess for creatives.

How much unstructured time we need is an individual matter. Some of us need some every day. Others find once a week satisfying. Still others may need unstructured time only once a month. Length of time also varies with the individual. Whatever our particular needs, having that block of unstructured time will have a positive effect on our creativity and overall disposition. And that’s a gift worth giving ourselves.

Category:Creativity, Productivity | Comment (0) | Author:

Talk About Your Work

Sunday, 24. November 2019 22:55

Remember when you were in that class and the instructor asked you to explain your work? Remember how you thought, “It’s art; I can’t explain it.” And then you took that other course and the instructor asked you to do the same thing, and this time you thought, “If I could explain it, I wouldn’t have had to paint [photograph, sculpt, compose, write] it.” But it only got worse. They kept asking you to explain what you were doing and, worse than that, they asked your peers to critique your work and say what they thought you were trying to communicate and how well you accomplished that.

It didn’t matter which art you were studying; the teachers were always asking for rationales for the choices that you made. They never let you get away with, “I’ll just let the work speak for itself.” And they continued to ask your peers what they thought about your work. And sometimes you learned that your work did not say exactly what you set out to say, at least to other people in the class.

As is often the case, the teachers were correct in their push to have us articulate our work. Even though we hate doing it, articulation forces us to put our work into prose, which forces us to think about the art differently. This is particularly useful for work that may be mysterious or ambiguous or may not be clear to the viewers/listeners. Probably this was not apparent to us when it was happening in school. The fact is that there is always something to be learned from articulating our work.

Please note that this has nothing to do with the talking about our work that agents, advisors, and gallerists tell us to do. That is a sales technique. And we’re really talking about something different:  the story of how the idea came and the process of making the work rather than an attempt to explain the work itself.

Many artists make articulation part of their process. For example, I know actors who, as part of their technique, walk through all the actions they will perform in a show, but they talk to themselves as they do it. I also know stage directors who have conversations with their assistant directors for the sole purpose of hearing themselves evaluate the things they are doing to shape the show.

Recently I found another use for talking about my work. Some photographs were not quite what I wanted them to be, but I couldn’t put my finger on the precise problem. I had a friend look at them, and he pointed out a couple of things that I had thought about, but did not realize the full impact of until I heard it in words. Then I realized that I could have done it by myself. All I had to do was start talking about what was right about the image which, of course, led me to realize and be able to verbalize what was wrong with the image. Hearing it in words makes all the difference.

So now I talk to myself—even more than I used to—but now I talk about the art and how it works, or doesn’t. It sounds simplistic, but it takes editing out of the world of feelings and ideas and puts it into the world of reason. And that helps, and anything that helps make the work better is worth a try.

Category:Creativity, Criticism, Productivity | Comment (0) | Author:

Stay Flexible

Sunday, 29. September 2019 22:18

One of the most difficult things for actors to learn is live in the moment and respond truthfully to fictional environment of the scene. This is particularly observable in the way they cling to old line readings even though the circumstances of the scene have evolved since they arrived at those line readings. The impulse is to do what has worked before rather than trust oneself to step into the unknown and offer a new response based only on characterization, character objectives, and the immediate circumstances.

This unwillingness of the actor to trust him/herself in the moment can based in a number of things: (1) it could be laziness or intransigence; “I learned it this way, and I’m not going to change now.” (2) It could be that the actor believes that s/he has found the “right” reading, and anything different would be “wrong.” This, of course, means that if the scene goes in a different direction from the way it was last performed, then that new direction is “wrong.” These are the sorts of actors who believe that the goal of rehearsals is to perfect the performance, which then stays constant no matter how many times it is performed. Experience teaches that this is not the best approach to live theatre (or probably any performing art, or perhaps any art). (3) It could be fear (about which I have written a couple of times: here and here). Stepping out into the unknown is scary business, particularly when there are people watching. What if one were to make a bad choice in front of an audience?

The actor’s reasoning could be based on any of these, or some combination, or something I haven’t thought of. Whatever the reason, s/he sticks to yesterday’s plan, fails to adhere to the truth of the moment, and creates bad art.

This is not just an actor’s problem. Almost all artists are faced with creative situations where success demands flexibility. The characters in a novel take the plot in a direction unforeseen in the writer’s outline. An unexpected heat wave modifies the malleability of the sculptor’s materials. Rain mars the outdoor wedding photography. Every artist is likely, in the course of creation, to encounter some factor that modifies the work being attempted. The artist can respond in the same way as the actors above, refusing/declining to change what they are doing or how they are doing it. Or they can be flexible, see the situation for what it is, and respond to that situation in a spontaneously creative way.

Undoubtedly, those who are more flexible and can respond to the moment will be more productive, since they don’t wait until conditions are restored to optimum; indeed, that may never happen. And it is likely that they will—in the long run—be more successful. The actor who only repeats the same readings at every performance is soon considered stale and boring. The photographer or painter who will only use the one lighting setup will likewise find him/herself producing repetitious and uninteresting work.

So whether we are actors or musicians or painters or writers or photographers or sculptors, we need to stay open to the possibility of momentary change and be flexible enough to embrace those moments, modifying our procedures and practices as the situation demands. The bonus is that being that flexible has the potential to open doors that we didn’t even know were there.

Category:Creativity, Productivity, Theatre | Comment (0) | Author:

That Comfort Zone Thing Again

Sunday, 1. September 2019 22:01

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine, a theatre director who was between shows, had both his front and back yards landscaped. He did not, however, acquire an automated sprinkler system to water the newly-landscaped area. Much to his dismay, he learned that virtually every plant-care site on the internet advised him to water his new plants and grass early in the morning. “Watering” in this case consists of hand-watering a few plants and turning sprinklers on and off. Now, this is a man who has spent his whole adult life working afternoons and evenings and normally sleeping from roughly 2:00 am to 10:00 am. This was a schedule that he could not maintain and water his landscaping early in the morning.

His answer was to completely change his schedule. He said that he had to protect his investment, so he would have to get up early to water the yard, an act far outside his comfort zone. Instead of getting up, watering, and going back to bed, he decided after much thought that he would try getting up, staying up, and adjusting his bed time. I had my doubts. But he did it; his new schedule puts him in bed eleven-ish and gets him up at seven. This represents quite a change. He said that the first thing he learned was that after watering, he had a “huge” block of time before he had to go to work. This contrasted favorably, at least to him, to the smaller blocks of time he normally had between rehearsal and sleep and between waking and work. He said the larger block allowed him to be far more productive because he could delve deeply into a personal project instead of having to break it up into smaller chunks to fit his available time.

So, in order to protect his investment in real estate, he completely changed his lifestyle of many years. It’s not a choice everyone would make, simply because it is so far out of his ordinary comfort zone and because it has effects on so many other aspects of his life. Yet, he is determined to try it. In fact, after two weeks on the new regimen, citing the healthful effects of being outside every day, he says he feels better and is far more productive than he was prior. He seem to have had no trouble adapting to the different sleep/wake times. He even decided to maintain the same schedule even on days he didn’t water for the sake of consistency.

(But remember, he has been between shows during this period, so making such a drastic change has been a little easier than if he were rehearsing until 10:30 pm. He goes back into rehearsal next week. It will be interesting to see how his new lifestyle holds up.)

And the point of all this, you ask. Aside from being a curious story, it points out several things that should be of interest to artists, particularly those who have day jobs.

  1. The capacity to “display adaptability” when faced with a significant problem, a practice advocated by both Bobby and Douglas McArthur Shaftoe, is a desirable trait to have.
  2. Sometimes one area of our lives will impact other areas in unexpected ways. We need to always stay alert.
  3. Change that initially looks onerous, may, in fact, bring unexpected positive consequences.
  4. Different, even radically different, can be better.

After a time, we take our “normal” schedule for granted; it becomes a significant part of our comfort zone. Perhaps re-examining it from time to time might be worthwhile. We may not want to make as dramatic a change as my friend, but we might want to consider alternatives.

Category:Productivity | Comment (0) | Author:

The 80 20 Rule

Sunday, 4. August 2019 23:44

So I’m on the cusp of finishing the first draft of a very large writing project. The problem is, though the end is in sight, I can’t quite seem to get there. Ideas and anecdotes keep jumping into my mind, all wanting to be added to the project. And some of them are worth putting in, so I have to stop and consider each one individually. The result is that it seems the end will never arrive. As I was dealing with this, a thing called the 80 20 Rule (also known as the “80/20 Rule”) popped into my mind, so I turned to my friendly internet to gather more information.

For those of you who don’t know, the 80 20 Rule, also called the “Pareto Principle” after its founder, an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto, says that in any endeavor, “80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.” Although originally applied to economics, it turns out that this 80-20 split can be applied to nearly any human activity. For example, if you type “80 20 Rule” into Google, you come up with an almost endless list of predictive activities. Plug in “80 20 Rule writing” and you get 144 million hits. In the first of these, Stever Robbins says of writing a draft, “The 80/20 rule also applies to writing. Only in writing, you get 80% of the way there in 20% of the time. Then you spend the last 80% of your time getting the last 20% of the polished draft.

The more I think about it, the more profound the implications of the 80 20 rule seem. It may certainly account for the frustration we all experience toward the end of a project when we are ready to wrap things up and suddenly there seems more to do. It may even be an explanation for the difficulty in writing endings. Every writing teacher I know and almost all writers say that writing endings are the most difficult part of any writing project. Perhaps this is because of the tremendous effort required to produce the last 20% of the project.

Although Robbins has a technique for changing the process—at least for writers—so that that last 80% of the time gets streamlined, it involves adding an editor to the workflow, and just may not be practical for all writers, or other artists. Perhaps the best we can do with the 80 20 Rule is to understand that it is a thing, and work accordingly. Acknowledging the rule allows us to be far less dissatisfied with our progress than we might be otherwise. And that is a step forward in anyone’s book.

The other thing that we can do, being aware of this rule, is to plan our projects to account for the increased effort that will be required toward the end of the project, whether that project is writing, or editing photographs, or perfecting choreography, or directing a play or creating a character. If we know the last 20% will require as much as 80% of the effort put into the whole project, we can prepare for that, and in so doing, produce a more complete product. Put simply, planning our projects to account for the 80 20 Rule will allow us to do better work.

Category:Productivity | Comment (0) | Author:

Editing: A Completely Different Skill Set

Monday, 27. May 2019 0:34

There have been a number of posts in this blog on creativity. This is one more—well sort of. This is about the step after creativity. No matter what art we are engaged in, sooner or later we have to edit. And that’s a completely different skillset from the set that we used to create the artifact in the first place. There have previous posts about editing: one discusses the benefits of editing, another discusses the necessity for editing, and a third discusses the difficulty of editing.

To edit is “to alter, adapt or refine especially to bring about conformity to a standard to suit a particular purpose.” So basically we’re going to refine results of our creativity. In order to do that, we are going to judge our own work and then take action to correct the faults and omissions we find. This is a difficult thing to do, particularly because it’s difficult to get the distance we need to do a really good job on our own work.

So what skills and qualities do we need to do this job?

  1. Objectivity. We must come to the work with “new eyes,” i.e. we have to look at the work as though we have never seen it before. When we are in edit mode, we are looking at the work the way we think a very discerning audience might. Once we are in that place, we can begin to see what might impact that audience in what ways. So we begin to learn what we might leave out and add to make the work stronger.
  2. Ruthlessness. To actually start cutting away and adding in we must be without fear and without remorse. Every piece that we eliminate or modify is something that we made, and while it may have a great deal of merit on its own, it must be removed for the overall good of the piece. It takes strength to excise perfectly good material, but we must trust ourselves that the impact of the edited piece will justify the surgery.
  3. Knowledge of purpose, plan, message. In order to make such a judgement, we must first be aware of what the piece of work is trying to accomplish. Only by having this goal foremost in mind can we assess whether the artifact succeeds or fails in achieving that purpose. A firm separation from the artist must be maintained to insure valid judgement.
  4. A set of standards by which to judge. In addition to the goal of the piece, we need to be aware of our own standards about what makes art good. This can be something as simple as adherence to the principles of design or some more complex set of standards that has to do with our sense of aesthetics and ultimately what we think about the nature of art.
  5. A willingness to check the tiniest of details. We not only have to look at large issues like message and adherence to standards, we have to be able to drill down into the work to see how very small details affect the larger work. It is at this point when we really begin to understand what must be changed to improve the piece, or what needs to be left out entirely, or what must be enhanced.
  6. A means of judging the overall impact. Now that we have standards and some notion of the purpose of the piece and have looked at the details, we need to take a bird’s eye view to see how everything works together to create overall impact, and, more importantly, how pruning can improve that impact.

As you can see, this is not even close to the skill set for creativity. But if we are to be successful as working artists, we must develop this set of qualities and skills as well as the creative ones. Just as we develop our creative work flow, we must develop our judgement and willingness to edit ruthlessly to better our imaginative output.  Better editing will facilitate better work.

Category:Creativity, Productivity, Quality | Comment (0) | Author: