How do you keep perspective?


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As promised, another non-movie related thread from the Shoutbox MC.

This one is most directed to the artists/creative types on here, but it can apply to just about anyone in in any field.

How do you keep perspective doing something you love when there have already been hundreds, if not thousands, of other people who have done it better before you?

Writing a novel? How do you not get overwhelmed by the idea that Moby Dick and A Christmas Carol have already come before you?

Dropping an album? How do you not get overwhelmed by [insert famous person]'s multi-platinum seller?

Painting a picture? How do you not think about that Mona Lisa?
Halcyon days are not a thing
Nostalgia is no excuse for stupidity
I don't believe in golden ages
Or presidents that put kids in cages
America awaits on bended knee
Bad Religion

"Money won is twice as sweet as money earned."

It's tough, but the key is to find joy in the act itself, whatever it is. And to measure yourself against yourself and not others, at least not all the time. IE: "I haven't written a classic novel" gets supplanted by "I'm writing better than I used to." Focus on the part you can control, which is your own steady improvement.

It's not always easy, and I wouldn't actually want to dissuade anyone out of trying hard at almost anything. But I'd say if only the hope of some far-off goal, rather than the progress itself, is what's providing the motivation, it's liable to end badly. Very much needs to be a "journey is the reward" kind of thing, I think.

This is what helps me, at least.

That depends on what you mean by being better and why exactly do you do it, for what end? The most acclaimed artist in the past fond different ways of expressing themselves, they did it for that very end, expressing there urges, feelings, emotions. The very reason people don’t like mainstream is because is made for the masses, there is no individualism’s, originality in it, is fake, is not honest, because you’re doing it for others to like it, you have that expectation and that determines everything. We want recognition at all costs, and that is why we compare it with what was done before, if you do it because you need it, because you simply love it, there is nothing else you really need.

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I dunno. Maybe it’s just the nihilist in me. I often think that what’s the point in me doing this or that because someone else has already done it better.

And when I say often I mean just about once a day.

Good topic for a thread

Personally I've never had the problem of doing something creative but being overwhelmed by other people's success. If anything the inverse is true for me. It's the stories of regular people who made it despite the odds that inspire. I'm thinking of the author of the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowlings. She didn't come from a privilege background, nor where her parents famous authors, and she didn't have an uncle who owned a publishing firm. In fact her 1st Harry Potter novel was turned down. And now look at her!

I did once write a 1st draft of a novel. Then I followed it up with a novella and tried to get that published. But I kept getting those infamous rejection notices. But what really broke my spirit was that the last one was returned unread. Now it's been many years since I tried.

If you want to do something my only advice is go full steam ahead. Procrastinating never got anything done, I sure haven't got that novel finished yet.

Captain Steel's Avatar
"Lois, I never lie."
What I do is try to look at things objectively - without considering the publicity, the history or the hype. And that's not easy to do if you're already aware of any of these things.

With some art it's easy - you know what's "good" (what took almost a God-level gift of talent to produce) and what's not. So, of course there are masters who I know I could never come close to even if I kept my hand in.

(And my love has always been comics, so even though I'm including classical masters like Michelangelo & Da Vinci, the true masters for me are Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, George Perez, John Byrne, among others - those who, at best, I could only copy but never create on their level!)

With some visual art, publicity is all there is to it - it's a money-making sham run by speculators, having little to do with talent, skill or vision.

With writing it's another story - I judge "good writing" on how easy it is to read, how it flows, how imaginative the story is and how easily I form images in my mind based on the words.

I remember reading some Stephen King books and thinking "I could do this!" I've always had a bounty of imagination.
Don't get me wrong, Stephen King is a great writer with a great imagination, but I've noticed he often seems to come up short with endings (The Stand comes to mind as a lame ending for an epic story) - I can sympathize, coming up with something that is both climactic and ties everything together is difficult. But if Stephen King could be a household name with some lame endings, then why couldn't I (...IF I could come up with some good endings)?

(Great topic!)

As Yoda said, I think you just take the journey. I would only worry about being derivative if you were being
' lazy' and more or less copying another's works. But don't be deterred from taking inspiration from others - that is actually the building blocks of almost every artist's fount of creativity.

The Impressionists like Monet were inspired by Asian artists. Dylan was inspired by early folk music and blues. And Dylan was accused of appropriating folk melodies in his early works ( somewhat true) - but as he went along in his artistic journey - learning and thinking of and
' borrowing ' from every musical source- he evolved into a truly magically unique musician .

You too are a unique person - we all are- every artist imho is a snowflake, a fingerprint- and no matter how we filter the common universal thread of humanity through our art- it comes out in the end as one's personal signature.

As Yoda says, it's all in the journey. And it's one of the finest journeys your spirit can embark upon. Don't worry about who's gone before you. Just take that first step. Step after step, as you become comfortable with the rhythm of your own creative exploration- and you will make your own way down the road. And sing your own song.

It's perfectly natural for doubts to creep in your head when you trying to create something.

A simple statement worked for me : This thing might work or won't, but ten or twenty years down the line I don't want to look back and regret not trying.

I believe everyone has their own unique perspectives and experiences to share. Don't be overwhelmed by the works of the greats who have come before you. Most Greats weren't always great and in most cases, not everything they produced, even after they made their names, was great. There's also a wide range of quality in all artforms out there. Your work may not be the best, but it may be at least as good or better than some. Focus on producing what you enjoy. It's likely there are others who will enjoy it, too.

And Citizen Rules, timing often plays a big part. It's possible the editor who sent back your submission unread wasn't looking for that type of story or was just having a bad day.

"I use to say that Fernando Pessoa (the most famous portuguese poet) can be called a great poet, but is not because of the poets he wrote. You can find many other poems as good as his. The point is that Fernando Pessoa made himself a poem. He dedicated himself completely to what he wanted without being concerned with the rest.
We indeed cultivate a certain personality that comes in the paycheck, which determines all things in our life."

This is a portuguese philosopher named Agostinho da Silva, that i like very much. He believes the current capitalistic system is necessary so humans reach a point where work is no longer necessary, so we can be poets on the loose. The thing i most disagree with him, is how he saw work, he saw it as a bad thing, not liking the german and japonese society because of that. Even so, he believed people born free, so should remain free, and as long as they need to work, they are not free, something i don't totally agree. Despite all that, his thoughts are very interesting, very diversified, many different influences in his thoughts, something i don't know if he knew.

It really is amazing when you think about all the content our species has created. It's almost overwhelming at times.
It's not overwhelming to me, it was overwhelming once, it is not anymore, i find it unimportant, but very interesting. What is overwhelming to me is that we are a specie with 350.000 years, in a 4,540.000.000 years planet, in a 13,800.000.000 years universe. Planet earth is a small dot in this galaxy and there are 100,000.000.000 to 200,000.000.000 galaxies in the universe. This is overwhelming, it frees me. The only thing i find amazing in human beings is there ability to survive and there curiosity, but i even find that unimportant.

The only actual creative work I engage in a lot at this point in time is composing music, especially classical/film music. What's important to understand in music is that being innovative and having new ideas musically isn't necessarily quality, or at least popularity.

Consider Mozart. Mozart did not create any new music forms, or any new usages of instruments (except perhaps the clarinet), or really anything theoretically that he innovated. Instead, he wrote music so sublime and perfect that it was like the crystal version of everything that had come before him. That is why he rose above Haydn and Salieri and Boccherini to be ranked among great innovators like Beethoven and Bach.

A century later, roughly, Brahms. He was considered a conservative and the second Beethoven. But he is routinely considered great, because of his perfection of classical music.

Many more examples in the 20th century, including the Beatles. The Beatles did nothing that Bach, Beethoven, Shostakovich, or others hadn't done already. They innovated nothing in rock music. But they did it so well that they're my favorite non-classical band. Pure musicians.

My point is, one doesn't have to innovate or have their own "voice" per say. I don't feel pressured to create my own type of music at all, I don't feel pressured to innovate. I just write what I think works best and what comes to me.

Sorry if this wasn't really your question, I wasn't sure how to interpret it.
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Wow, this thread is blowing up. Nice topic. I'll respond with an anecdote.

Music and art have both been very important to me through my entire life. Unfortunately, I tend to be kind of an OCD perfectionist while at the same time being terribly shy. At least for music, I always had it in my head that some song had to be studio quality on first draft. Period. The guitar or vocals had to meet my imaginary definition of perfection before I could share it with anyone. Needless to say, not much was ever shared. I'd compare something I came up with to Soundgarden, for instance. Or I couldn't hit Chris Cornell's vocal range and, as a result, I considered myself an absolute failure at the effort. That, in turn, would push me farther into my corner of creative isolation. That started in highschool. I figured I could do it, but not perfectly. If not perfectly, then I felt others would judge me and recognize me for the failure I saw in myself. This created all kinds of stage fright and confidence issues having defeated myself well before even making an effort.

It has taken me 20+ years now to slowly break that down! One step has been to just listen to other amateur musicians (especially helpful that YouTube is full of them) to 1) have a more realistic comparison for where I am musically, and 2) to see the overflowing support these people get from people that don't even know them. It has me questioning that maybe people aren't as judgmental as I am on myself. That helps.

Another step for me has been to listen to as many demo recordings as I can find from the bands I love. Spotify really helps with that as many albums had some kind of deluxe version. There is an extended Super Deluxe version of Soundgarden's album, Superunknown. On it is a rehearsal recording of The Day I Tried to Live. Listening to that you would never believe it was Soundgarden but, instead, some crappy college cover band. A lot of that was recorded on a home 8-track in the bedroom or whatever. Some are recorded just on a single room mic, and it shows. Doing this has helped me to see that everything good starts rough. That my idols are not inherently perfect. Voices crack. Guitarists have no idea what the solo is yet so they fumble through a few key notes. Quality sucks and constantly fades in and out as they move about the room. It's real stuff and far from the polished final version heard on the album. It's very similar to how young people look at fashion magazine covers and assume that they should also look like the same marketable "perfection" without recognizing the hundreds of shots taken to find this one composition or the hours of edits through Photoshop to stylize the shot even further hiding blemishes and annihilating any remnants of flaw. It is unrealistic and devastating for most, especially anyone already full of self doubt.

Third, just starting a project has helped a great deal. The first time I tried to record a cover I thought it sucked! It did. Terribly. That discouraged me very much; however, an hour later with 10-20 more takes I was much looser and felt warmed up. My sound was better for it. The anxiety was easing and I remembered that everything is a draft to be studied and improved upon. Nothing is perfect, or even really "right" the first time. Why I can't remember that I've no idea, but there it is. Now, I make edits very casually or just completely rerecord a part because nothing is as precious as I used to believe it to be. Let it break. You can fix it, no?

Finally (and this is a big part), create some sort of network safety net of support. Find a small circle of friends or even online groups that you can share ideas with. Ping thoughts back and forth. Ideally, they will have similar interests and can recognize the fragility of honest criticisms necessary to both help move you forward while keeping things positive and real with the dialogue. They may not like something but that's cool But they may offer other ways to approach the matter if you feel stuck. That's something you can't really do alone. The good thing here is that you're already asking how to shift your perspective by posting this thread so you're already on the right trail, IMO.

Finally finally, mimic for as long as you need to to learn, but eventually use those lessons to discover your thing and to refine your thing. So what that Joe Bob has a multi-platinum album. Write a song for the song's sake and for creativity's sake and for your enjoyment and closure. Don't write for multi-platinum goals.
"My Dionne Warwick understanding of your dream indicates that you are ambivalent on how you want life to eventually screw you."
- Joel

"Ever try to forcibly pin down a house cat? It's not easy."
- Captain Steel

Some very interesting thoughts already posted. All I can really add is to take a snapshot. Then days, weeks, months or even years later you'll have a visual reminder of exactly how much larger than you that statue loomed or how far away from the hotel the lake/place of interest/pub etc. actually was.
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