Sunday, January 17, 2016

When you start to feel bad about yourself, find the lie

Years ago, my mentor recounted a story about one of his former employees that always stuck with me. 

During the exit interview, his direct report was outraged at her termination, explaining that she had put in ten years of experience with the organization, and had earned the right to stay on the team. 

But he explained to her that she didn’t have ten years of experience, she had one year of experience, ten times. 

Ouch. Imagine if your decade’s worth of effort was dismissed and invalidated like that. How would you feel? 

And even though I knew it was just another dopey management trope, still, that moment scared me. It gave birth to a voice inside my head that began to whisper, don’t be redundant. And as I grew as an artist, that voice only grew louder. The fear thickened. I became overly cautious about repeating and plagiarizing and cannibalizing and competing with myself. To the point that I began to hinder my own expression. 

Until recently, when a friend of mine asked a question that interrupted my pattern. 

How do you treat your work when you believe you’re going to be redundant? 

The answers were right there in front of me. Unkind, untrusting and unexpressive. Yikes. 

But that’s when I started to realize, in art, redundancy is a physical impossibility. You can’t make the same thing twice. Because each time you sit down to create, you’re not the same person you were the last time you sat down. 

And so, the fear of being redundant and derivative and unoriginal is completely unfounded. 

As my songwriting hero once said:

After a certain age, you stop caring what people’s opinions about your output are. There’s no such thing as releasing too much material. You don’t get those breaths back. Why are people curating other people? 

It’s a deeply liberating place to be. Creating art without the fear of being redundant. Trusting that the process can’t help but be original. And owning the result as something nobody can take away from you. 

Proving, that when you start to feel bad about yourself, find the lie. 

How do you treat your work when you believe you’re going to be redundant?

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author. Speaker. Strategist. Inventor. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.

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