I walked into the studio. A gorgeous two wall endless background curved neatly around some of the most beautiful handcrafted tables, prepped for a photoshoot. “How was the drive?” I had spent an hour and a half in the car listening to some Song Exploder and an Ira Glass interview with Relevant.
“Pretty good!” I meant it.
“Have a seat. What do you want to listen to?” He pulled out a handful of vinyls and started rattling off the names.
“Beck” I repeated.
“Hang on there’s more” he awkwardly interjected and kept reading until we landed on s.carey. With the needle thumping he sat down.
“To be honest, when I first saw your work I was not impressed”
“Thank you for saying that!” came out of my mouth without a beat. I meant it. I realized I have been waiting for a person I respect creatively to say that for a long time.
What I am about to say is going to sound arrogant but please try not to take it that way. It’s just observation. I get a lot of praise whenever I post new work. This has been a phenomenon ever since I joined the film department at Northwestern. I remember there was this national religious film award conference and the professors would always encourage us to enter our stuff. Northwestern always cleaned house and one year I decided I would just enter every class project I had made that year. Every single one placed 3rd or higher in their respective divisions. Even the ones I knew weren’t that good. Again, I don’t say that to be arrogant. I say that because it set up in me what Ira describes as the “taste gap.” This Idea that you create things and your peers tell you it’s good but your taste is better than your work and you know it’s not good.
There are these two worlds in us. One is creative confidence, and the other self criticism and the line between them is foggy. When they grow in tandem I think they create a burden in us. We feel like we are hustling and making it and changing the world but we also feel guilty, like we’re cheating the system or using our friends (who are awesome by the way! I know you’re reading this, and I genuinely appreciate you kind words) to build this city of security in our work. It is a creatively crippling city filled with the thickening smog of our ego.
Like Fight Club, That is the city that came crashing down when this incredibly talented, photographer, entrepreneur, agency owner uttered that beautiful sentence.
He was talking about some of my early work he had found on my Vimeo page and, full disclosure, he was not making the point I’m making here. His point was, don’t make your early crap so easy to find which, is also a good lesson but not the most prominent one I left with.
I do think I create good work. What I’m learning is that when I say that, what I need to mean by good is two simple things; 1) It is exceeds the job required, and 2) it is better than what I think I can create.
P.S. the bad old work he was referring is still up on my Vimeo but not for long! get it while its hot!