A friend who lectures asked on Twitter for advice for first year Creative Media students. Having myself once been a first year Creative Media student I thought about what I would have liked to have heard, and I immediately thought of this Ira Glass quote I saw online a while ago.
This articulated something which had bugged me for years. When I started making creative things something just didn’t feel right. Much of it when completed didn’t please me, but I found it hard to understand why. It can be very frustrating, and you want to give up, but its that very perception that you know something isn’t right that is evidence you have taste, and if you have taste, and you work hard – you can eventually make satisfying work. Being aware of that gap is vital.
It reminds me of advice you get when you start meditating. In meditation we try to rest our attention on our breath, and to keep it there. Naturally thoughts will arise, but the trick is to notice when they appear, and not get carried away by them. We use two tools here – mindfulness and awareness. Mindfulness is the ability to focus the attention on the breath – and awareness is the technique by which we realise thoughts are arising or that we are lost in them. It was reassuring to learn that recognizing that you had stopped being mindful of the breath and had been lost in thoughts was important, because it meant you were aware of the situation. Without recognising that, you would simply sit there thinking away and missing the point.
It is the same with creative work. If you were not frustrated by your early work – if you were not dissatisfied, then, quite possibly it is because you are not aware that it is not living up to your standards (alternatively, you might be making brilliant work from the get go – well done you!). Maybe you have no standards, if not you will continue to make poor work. But if you notice that gap – that means you have taste and you are aware of your shortcomings, and this will help you later. But you have to do lots of work. Similarly, in meditation, if you notice time and time again you are drifting into thought this too is important and helpful, but you need to then put in the hours on the cushion and develop the ability to stay with the breath.