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Stay Open

Sunday, 10. November 2019 23:10

One of the most difficult things for student actors to learn is to keep inventing. It seems that as the blocking (the pattern of movement) and the line memorization become solid, there is a tendency to want to also solidify their readings and business. As they solidify these aspects of their roles, these actors tend to close themselves off to other possibilities.

One supposes that this is because they come from backgrounds in church plays or high school where the philosophy of production was to rehearse until they got it “right” and then repeat that for the performances. A number of directors, myself included, believe that that approach is a formula for producing stale theatre; we believe rather that actors should create their characters anew at each performance and that rehearsals create the stable structure that allows this to happen. This approach works best if actors stay open to new insights and ideas and realize them on the stage.

Yet they continue to stop inventing as the rehearsal process moves along. And that’s a shame because trying one new thing, even toward the end of a creative process can generate new concepts and open never-before-thought-of understandings that can only enhance and enrich the creation—if the artist is open to it. Actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman, quoted in Austin Kleon’s recent blog post says, “Really be as naïve as possible, you know as ignorant as possible, because then you can keep yourself as wide open as possible for anything that could be of help, could be of use…”

The need to stay open applies to artists other than actors as well. Artists are notorious for tunnel-vision, particularly as they near the end of a project. But along with that single-mindedness, artists need to remain available to other ideas that may appear along the way. Ask any musician who does jazz improvisation; sometimes a new riff comes because one person in the group played a single note differently.

And this idea is not restricted to performing artists. A photographer may note the particular way a model turns or notice something in an image during post processing that s/he had missed before and suddenly new doors open up. The painter may slip and make an unplanned brush stroke and then realize that it was not a mistake, but one of Bob Ross’ “happy accidents.” A writer can mistype a word and suddenly realize a direction that s/he hadn’t thought of before. These opportunities would have been missed had the artist resisted a new idea because s/he was too close to finishing the work.

And many of us focus not only on the work, but on finishing the work—particularly as we get closer to that goal. Unfortunately, this state of mind works to our detriment if we refuse to let new intuitions into our creative process

As for finishing the work, Pablo Picasso has famously said that to finish a work is to “kill it, to rid it of its soul, to give it its final blow…” The natural extension of this idea is that all art should remain unfinished, and since it is unfinished, new directions and modifications are always possible. Just thinking about our works this way can give us the freedom to continue to explore and invent, even as we move toward completion of a project. In other words, thinking this way gives us what we need: the ability to stay open to new ideas and insights all the way through the creative process.

Category:Creativity, Theatre | Comment (0) | Autor:

The Nipple Effect

Sunday, 27. October 2019 23:07

It should come as no surprise to anyone that I look at a lot of images. Lately that has been mostly on Twitter and Instagram, and occasionally Facebook. Some of the images I look at are nudes. Over time, I have observed an evolution in those types of images specifically and other types of images as well. For the moment, let’s deal with nude images.

All three of these platforms have restrictions on “adult content.” Definitions are somewhat similar but treatment is different. Facebook restricts images of real nude adults where nudity is defined as “visible genitalia except… visible anus and/or fully nude close-ups of buttocks unless photoshopped… uncovered female nipples except….” The “excepts” include breastfeeding, birth-giving and after-birth moments or health-related situations or “an act of protest.” Instagram’s restriction includes “genitals, and close-ups of fully-nude buttocks. It also includes some photos of female nipples.” Both platforms exempt photographs of paintings and sculptures, but that exemption seems to be unevenly applied. Twitter says that you cannot share adult content within live video or in profile or header images. However, Twitter does allow “consensually produced adult content within Tweets if you mark the tweet as “sensitive.”

All of these rules, of course, limit the photographic images that can be posted. Limitations are not necessarily a bad thing; sometimes having limits actually makes the artist more creative. And certainly, even though it seems that these platforms are public forums, they are really commercially owned, and the owners are within their rights to set the rules to be whatever they want them to be (although one would wish that they are applied even-handedly and objectively). And one could certainly question why only female nipples are forbidden, but again, the owners can set their own rules.

In response to these rules, Photographers who do nude work must modify their images. The ones I have observed have taken three primary paths of response: (1) they push as far as they can and end up being banned (2) they pixelate or otherwise cover nipples and genital areas; (2) they pose models so that the offending bits of her anatomy are concealed—sometimes quite awkwardly, creating images that deny their own story-telling. (3) They restrict their postings to those they know are safe.

Sometimes photographers evolve, first trying one approach, the adopting another so that they can stay online and garner as many “likes” as possible. This, in my mind, becomes problematic from an integrity of art perspective. Those artist are essentially tailoring their art to fit the platform. And that is smart—if what is important to the artist is the continuation online and the collection of “likes.” Certainly, some photographers are savvy enough to monetize the number of “likes” they receive. Otherwise, they are modifying their style and content of their work to suit platform censors simply for vanity.

And this trend is not limited to photographers doing nude work. If you look long enough you can observe that photographers are tailoring all images to fit he platform. For example, images that might be square or landscape in orientation are rendered in portrait orientation. This is particularly true on Instagram, where almost every image is optimized to the platform’s ideal image format. That means that aesthetics other than the platform’s don’t matter; the artist is giving up his/her autonomy for the sake of platform optimization.  (Twitter, incidentally, is much more forgiving, rendering all images initially in landscape mode, but allowing all proportions when a viewer clicks on the image.)

Social media are here to stay and have become the primary way many artists become known. However, we must be careful that we do not become slaves to what we think are the most obvious choices in marketing ourselves on social media. We must maintain some artistic integrity and remain true to our individual artistic aesthetics. Otherwise what we are “selling” on social media is not really representative of who we really are as artists. As David Bowie said, “I think it’s terribly dangerous for an artist to fulfill other people’s expectations. They generally produce their worst work when they do that.

Regardless of the ego appeal of “likes,” we do not want to lose our uniqueness as artists to the seeming demands and expectations of social media. There are better choices.

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Tiny Adjustments

Sunday, 13. October 2019 22:27

On Twitter earlier this week, Andy Williams posed the question, “Photographers: Do you MAKE a picture or TAKE a picture?” Ansel Adams, one of America’s great photographers, answered the question years ago when he said, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” I must agree. Of course, every photographer wants to take a good picture, but that’s only the beginning. Adams made prints from his superior negatives, but not without a bit of darkroom magic to enhance the picture. Today, when most photography is digital, we strive to get a good capture, and then we turn to computer software to do our digital legerdemain to improve our images.

It is at the computer that a number of decisions are made which can make or break an image. One of those is the decision on how to crop the image, i.e. deciding what to keep and what to discard. Several years ago, I posted about the importance of framing, determining what information stays within the borders of an image and what gets left out. It’s a task that most photographers do instinctively without overthinking the process.

However, I have a colleague, a fine art photographer, who has developed a process of making 5×7 prints of certain images and attaching them to his refrigerator with small magnets. “It allows me to think about them over a period of time,” he says of the process. “I find that it makes my work better.” He pins the images to the refrigerator where they will stay for sometimes a month while he considers what will make them better. Sometimes he decides to reject them entirely, but usually, he will make cryptic marks, noting what modifications he wants to make in the image. In answer to my question about the process, he said, “These are the problem children. Most images are easy to edit in the computer, but some are more difficult to get exactly right. I find it hard to see exactly what they need unless they are on paper and I can study them off and on for a while. As far as the decision goes, I just look for what will make it better.”

He is a firm believer in creating the best image he can imagine and ruthless when it comes to adjusting what stays in the image and what gets cropped out. This sometimes means making images which do not fit any standard frames; he says that he gave up on standard sizes long ago, and is concerned only with making the best possible image. The other day, I got to see the current collection of images in his kitchen. One long, thin image had a mark slightly less than 1/8 inch from the top with some words I couldn’t read. In answer to my question about what it was, he said it was where the image needed to be cropped. “But that’s a tiny amount,” I said. “Yes, he said, but it will make the image better. The new crop line removed just a little less than 2/100 of the overall height of the image, a tiny adjustment if there ever was one. However, he made that adjustment and reprinted the image. It was indeed better.

And so it is with all art. Tiny adjustments can make a piece radically different: an actor changes one line, which then cascades into an entirely different performance. The addition of two measures completely alters the nature of the musical composition. Minute brush strokes modify the meaning of a painting. The examples are endless.

But to be clear, this is not about perfection; it is about using (usually small) adjustments to make a piece the best it can be. And it’s about understanding that making such adjustments might allow us to reclaim some projects that we had before considered failures.

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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) | Autor:

Extortion

Sunday, 15. September 2019 23:07

The subject matter of this post is a bit unusual. However, the topic is one that can impact anyone who works in the arts, whether commercially or not. In my experience, arts people, on the whole, are fairly honest and trusting. This can make them particularly vulnerable when it comes to the internet, where there are many people who are anything but honest and trusting. So, this cautionary tale; I hope you find it useful.

In addition to Unnatural Light, I have several other web sites. This week I received two emails in less than three hours through the contact form on one of those sites. The contact form is a favorite of spammers and phishing expeditions, but these were different. Both purported to be from content writers and demanded that I order some of their services. If I did not, they threatened to create thousands of backlinks from porn sites to my web site in order to hurt my rankings in search engines. One gave me two days to comply; the other vowed to remove the backlinks once I ordered their services. Interestingly, both had the same contact link although they allegedly came from different people. One, which Gmail had flagged as a probable phishing email, stated that it was the only way the writer had of getting work and asked me to not take it personally because it was “strictly business.” It was the first time that I have ever heard extortion referred to as “strictly business.”

These emails were, I think, delivered by bots. Evidently, these bots did not analyze the web site before posting their emails. Had they done so, they would have discovered that that particular web side uses no written content—it’s photos only. Thus there is no real market for written content, no matter who wrote it.

The second thing the extortionist(s) didn’t know is that this web site is not in competition with other web sites, so SEO (search engine optimization) is not a major concern. The web site was never intended to appear on page 1 of a Google search; it exists for people who already know it’s there. Thus the promise of dropping it in Google’s (or any search engine’s) rankings is not really a significant threat.

My first step was find the technology to prevent bots from sending me mail. Such technology exists, and does not seem all that difficult to implement. I am in the process of doing that; I suspect my volume of mail coming into that contact form will drop dramatically.

My second step was to learn something about malicious backlinks. Although I did not find mention of the sort of extortion I was facing, I found instances of unscrupulous site owners who used the technique against competitors. Evidently it is not terribly difficult or expensive—and it works. Some webmasters who depend upon search engine to drive traffic to their sites reported significant revenue loss after such attacks. Combine that with criminal intent and you have a virulent form of ransomware which targets your web site instead of your hard drive.

As of this writing I do not know whether the threat to my website was a bluff, a bit of phishing, or real. What I did discover is that Negative SEO is a thing and it impacts your search engine rankings. The good news is that there are tools to minimize the probability of such attacks and even ways of dealing with the situation if you have already been attacked. Just Google “malicious backlinks” or “negative SEO,” and you will find everything you need.

Well, everything except the time it takes to implement the tools. It turns out that website security is, in itself, almost a full-time job. You may not be able to protect your web site against all possibilities, but perhaps, armed with this information, you can at least improve the security of your web site.

Category:Technology | Comment (0) | Autor:

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.

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Art Must Communicate—Immediately

Sunday, 18. August 2019 23:08

We are told repeatedly that it is impossible to please everyone, so we might as well make art to please ourselves. That is not terrible advice, as far as it goes; but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. If we make art only to please ourselves, we run the risk of creating masturbatory art. (See “Art or Masturbation?”) Don’t we really want an audience larger than our three fellow artists who “get it”? If so, perhaps we ought to change our approach to the work we create.

This is not to say that our art does not have to satisfy our own aesthetic; certainly, it does. But shouldn’t our art try to communicate our vision to an audience outside ourselves? If we’re not going to do that, why bother to create an artifact in the first place? We create to record or reproduce our vision. This, though, is not enough, at least not for Edgar Degas who said, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”

Reading that quotation this week caused me to think about how artists approach their work in general. (And thanks to Lori McNee [@lorimcneeartist] for the tweet where I read it.) Many artists are so intent on transferring what they have seen and felt to the page or computer or canvas that they forget they have an audience. They don’t concern themselves with making their art to “make others see.”

When we do concern ourselves with that, it changes how we think about what we do. Communications theory holds that the responsibility for the success of the communication rests squarely on the person doing the communicating. If the other person doesn’t get it, it’s the communicator’s fault. Likewise, the responsibility for whether a piece of art communicates rests on the artist. When we accept that, we concern ourselves with not only recording our thoughts and feeling and insights in our art, but in being sure that the audience “gets” those thoughts and feelings and insights as well. So our focus changes; we become concerned with structuring our art so that it becomes accessible—at least to that group of people that we call our audience.

If we do not adopt this approach, we run the risk of looking and sounding as foolish as a stage director I knew once. I happened to be in the vicinity of the bulletin board where a newspaper review of the recently opened play just been posted. The reviewer said essentially that the direction of the show was muddy and s/he had difficulty determining what the play was really supposed to be about. The director of the show stopped, read the review, and began to rail loudly to anyone who would listen that the reviewer should come back as many times as it took for him/her to understand it. He completely missed the irony of calling for an audience member to repeatedly attend an art form that is designed to be absorbed and understood in a single viewing. And he had no idea how arrogant and foolish he sounded. (By the way, the reviewer was correct—the direction of the show was muddy, and the play went nowhere.)

Most of the art we create, even if it is not theatre, must be created with the idea in mind that our audience is likely to see it only once and must be able to grasp at a single viewing what it is that we are attempting to communicate. Realistically speaking, our work will probably not be hung in a museum or saved in a library for leisurely study by our audience.  Our work can be subtle, but it must communicate immediately. Once we realize this, and adjust our process accordingly, we are likely to see a change in audience reaction—for the better.

Category:Audience, Communication | Comment (0) | Autor:

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.

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Back to Basics

Sunday, 21. July 2019 22:25

A friend of mine is a tutor who is mostly involved with coaching students on test-taking to improve their scores. Recently, however, he was given the job of working with a broadcast journalist who had been having trouble on her job. It seems that the station she worked for had recently switched from reading from paper to reading from a teleprompter. She, for some reason, was having difficulty reading the teleprompter. This would lead to a panic situation wherein she would become completely tongue-tied and flustered. Needless to say, it was a situation she needed to remedy if she was going to continue in her present occupation.

So the tutor, who is not a speech pathologist, began to experiment to see if he could get to the root of the problem. He went about this methodically, trying one thing, observing the result, then trying another. He asked colleagues who had taught voice and diction for advice; since he had a theatre background, he talked to former teachers, all the while continuing to experiment. Finally he hit on a process that helped immeasurably: vocal warm-ups. He found that if the client did vocal relaxation exercises prior to reading aloud, things went better. Then he added tongue-twisters and other articulation exercises that actors use for vocal warm-ups. The results were amazing.

The exercises seemed not only to relax the client’s mouth and throat, but her in general. She became much less stressed at having to work with the teleprompter, which led to a much more relaxed and articulate presentation. Once the breakthrough was made, it was just a matter of designing a custom vocal warm-up routine for the client that would maximize articulation and relaxation. That, in turn, increased the client’s confidence in her ability to use the teleprompter successfully.

The solution was essentially a case of returning to the basics of vocal performance. This whole situation made me think how useful it is for any artist to revisit basics from time to time. We have a tendency in our work, regardless of the area of arts in which we are involved, to move toward more complex work, work further and further removed from basic rules and principles. Sometimes we get so far away that we lose our moorings. Those are the times we most need to get back to basics.

Perhaps it would be better if we did not wait until we were so far removed from the basics of our respective arts to embrace them, since those basics are the foundation upon which our artistic endeavors are really built. It certainly could not hurt to periodically review basic practices and principles, and it might actually improve our work. Revisiting fundamentals can be especially important when we, like the client in the above story, are undergoing changes or entering a new branch of our art.

Intermittently going back to basics can not only remind us of foundational principles and practices of our arts, it may also remind us of why we are working in the arts to begin with and serve to refresh our creativity, and that is never a bad thing.

Category:Creativity, Education, Quality | Comment (0) | Autor:

Unpack Your Process

Sunday, 7. July 2019 23:40

Like working in theatre, working in the art of pyrotechnics is always instructive. This seems to be particularly true when I am occupying a mentoring position. This July 4th was no exception. We were working on a show of significant size and the crew was made up of people with a mix of knowledge and experience. One person had had experience with wireless, computer-driven shows, but was going to shoot her first manual, wired show. It was also the first time I had left a site in the middle of the set-up, so there were many new things going on.

Before I left the site, I talked with the most experienced person on the crew about running the cables from the firing board to the trailers which held the pyrotechnic product, stressing the order in which the cables needed to be laid. We were sure that we understood each other, so I left for a time. I was confident that all would be fine. During the time I was gone, we texted back and forth confirming the cable order and placement. That worker then left to go to another site.

When I arrived back at the site, everything looked great. Only when we began to check the circuitry did I realize that the entire show had been wired backward. I had a small fit, proclaiming quite loudly that wiring was “always, always, always” done a certain way. After I calmed down and assessed the situation for what it really was, I realized that this had become a learning situation for me too.

It turned out that even though the person in charge of placing the cables and I had full agreement about what went where, we were using completely different terminology in referring to the orientation of the trailers. Our perspectives were 180 degrees off. Thus we ended up with wiring that was perfect—from her point of view, and completely backward from mine. It had never occurred to either of us to verify how we were thinking about something as basic as trailer orientation. We both just assumed that we were correct. After all, it wasn’t the first rodeo for either of us. Once I figured that out, everything became clear.

Another thing that became clear was that I had no idea why cables were “always, always, always” attached to trailers in a certain prescribed order. The order of cables had been drilled into me by those who trained me and who had decades of experience. Most of the things they taught me had to do with safety and efficiency, so I just presumed that cable order did too. But faced with my own pronouncement, I realized that the reason was never explained. I did it that way for the weakest of reasons: because that was how I was taught to do it.

Upon examination, I realized that there were indeed reasons to attach cables the same way every time, and there were reasons to wire that same way for this particular site, but those were really after-the-fact realizations that while valid did not provide a rationale for doing it that way in the first place. So far as I can tell, there is no intrinsic reason that cabling the way I had learned is better than any other approach. I had just never thought to question it.

So, I re-learned some things this July 4th that I obviously needed to be reminded of: (1) never assume; (2) successful communication depends on the basic definitions upon which the communication rests; and (3) if you are directing, the result of communication is your responsibility. However, the biggest lesson I learned was a completely new thing: It is useful—at least every once in a while—to unpack your process, and examine why you do what you do.

Category:Communication | Comment (0) | Autor: