Friday, July 09, 2010

A genius at your own level

The other day, Seth Godin wrote: If you're waiting for a boss or an editor or a college to tell you that you do good work, you're handing over too much power to someone who doesn't care nearly as much as you do.

We spend a lot of time organizing and then waiting for the system to pick us, approve of us and give us permission to do our work.

This somewhat ties in with something I've struggled with a good deal over the years: a kind of self-criticism that says what I do isn't good enough - because so and so does it so much better. The fact that so and so is some kind of genius has never impressed the self-critic in me. Because so and so is great/good/capable, I must therefore always be on a lower step on the rung.

It's nonsense of course, and what's worse it makes me criticise others, both those who really are better than me, and those who plainly aren't (though of course the critic doesn't let me say that without feeling guilty).

I realised the other day, after having discussed this at length with my supervisor on several occasions, that there really isn't some kind of magical 'bar' just out of reach that I'm always striving that
someone else has placed there. The only bar I need to worry about (if worry is the right word) is the bar I'm prepared to climb up to. If what I'm doing isn't good enough the bar is the one I set in place myself to make sure that what I do is good enough.

I need a bar, a kind of level to strive for. Otherwise, 'okay' is good enough - and of course it isn't; it's usually second-rate. But the other side of this is that when I do do well, or write something that's good, then that sets the standard for future work, and also satisfies the inner critic.

Furthermore, as Godin says, I don't need 'permission' from someone else, approval that says what I've done is good. Of course we all like to hear that other people appreciate what we create - equally we don't like to hear other people saying they
don't like what we've done. However, reliance on that approval (or disapproval) is, in the end, counterproductive. It tells us nothing except that someone liked or disliked something.

The person who needs to like or dislike it is the creator of it. Ultimately I'm the judge of the work. If I think I've done my utmost with it, then that's the place to sit and be satisfied. If I realise that I can improve it (see the previous post) then I need to knuckle down and improve it. Until it's at that 'level,' that 'bar' I was talking about, it will make me feel dissatisfied.

But at least that dissatisfaction is within my own sphere, not 'created' by some false sense that someone else would/could do better, and that I'm a fraud to pretend I can do as well.

On an entirely different note, because different notes give variety, and monotonal music/writing is a bore, I have just discovered what pop displays are. I thought they must be something to do with pop-outs. Nope. The 'pop' stands for 'point of purchase' - that's not what we call them here in NZ where the term is more often 'point of sale display' - and it means all those little things you (or worse, your kids) can pick up at the last minute and throw into the bunch of stuff you've just spent an hour buying around the supermarket, or Bunnings, or The Warehouse, or wherever.

Bunnings opened its new store in Dunedin a few days ago - tonight they had about five minutes of full-scale fireworks blazing throughout the night sky, the second such display in a few weeks - the last was for the last match at Carisbrook, the famed sports ground that has been dumped in favour of the new Stadium Dunedin is building at enormous cost to the ratepayers - even though initially we were told it wouldn't cost us a thing! That ridiculously long sentence, with its muddled syntax and cluttered phrases is a prime example of something that should be fixed up (my inner critic is doing a poor imitation of weeping), but since the bar for this paragraph is just where I'm sitting already, I'm not going to do anything more about it!

[Picture of Mozart - a genius - for those who didn't recognise him.]

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