Maligned ducks, nasty reviews, and the pressure to create

Every Wednesday I choose a topic for the Basilique Chat Salon. About a dozen people gather to discuss it over 2 hours. This week’s subject was Creativity – where does it come from, and where does it go, when it seems unavailable? This is the second part of that conversation. In case you’re hopelessly lost, here is the first.

Maligned ducks

Josh shared his views on creativity:

“Well, to get to your questions, if I remember them right… I think everybody starts out being creative, I think it’s part of human nature. We have imaginations from the time we were very young. It’s how humans are made.

“But I remember at school, how easy it was for this to get bred out of us. Like we got graded on our drawings: I got a bad grade for a duck, and I liked what I did, until I got the grade.”

Josh paused for a moment as we listened to his story.

“Arghh, I had forgotten that.” he said with surprise.

As he spoke, I imagined little boy looking at his drawing of a duck with a disappointed look on his face – “How did I think this was good?” And, how these judgments sting, even years, and decades on.

“Plus,” he continued, “there’s all kinds of ways to be creative. A lot of my friends, were creative at things like baseball and cars, but those weren’t valued as ‘creative’ activities, but they can be. At work, finding solutions to problems, requires a lot of creativity… etc

“So, I think part of this is to see that everybody has his own way of being creative, and to value it. As for me, what I find is that I can’t be creative in any particular way all the time… that comes and goes too. So, I try to have different things going at the same time… like those different books Caitlin – I think –  said she reads at the same time.

“So, I can move back and forth as it feels right to me. If it’s to do with work, sometimes I have to force myself, I can’t wait for the mood to come.

“One more thing,” he added. “I think a lot of creativity comes from hard work, and developing skills and craftsmanship, and that hard grunge work, well it’s not always fun. But it is necessary sometimes. For things that I just want to have fun with , like SL… I don’t worry, I just have fun, and let things come to me as they do.”

“I completely agree with you about the hard work part.” I said to Josh. “Ideas may come in a flash, but you have to craft them into something more than they are when they arrive.

“One thing I wanted to pick up on, was the grading. How interesting that you said you liked what you did, until the grade told you not to, and how much that can stick with you!”

Josh admitted he was getting obsessed now, as he remembered: “I actually dropped that picture on the way home, so I wouldn’t have to show it to my parents!”

Nasty reviews

Caitlin asked: “But it still how it works, to some degree isn’t it?”

“Yes,” I replied. “Even now.”

“I want that duck back.” said Josh, to which I could only smile.

“That one person’s sole opinion can completely change how you feel about a part of yourself” added Juliette.

“Depends on how much that person’s opinion matters,” said Mona. “And this doesn’t only have to do with how much you respect that person, but also with how much influence that other person (you believe) exerts upon others.”

“As much as I don’t want to,” I said, and often pretend it doesn’t, I thought quietly to myself, “I am very affected by the reviews we get. Early on with Paradise Lost, we got a particularly vicious one, and it really made me doubt all the positive ones for a little while. And I know, that’s ridiculous.”

“It’s human,” added Caitlin.

“Ouch…” said Kay, “and completely understandable.”

“It’s why celebs have managers to deal with their mail and media.” Cait said.

“And the smart ones never Google themselves.” added Kay.

“If it’s any consolation,” said Mona, “I wasn’t even sure I was suitable to review Paradise Lost. So, I felt I was walking on eggshells. I didn’t want to sound like a know-it-all.”

I laughed and told her she’d written one of the best ones. “And I don’t even mean ‘positive’, I mean well thought-out.”

“Something I learned at work once helps me,” said Josh. “It was that no matter what you do, 10% of the people won’t like it. Somehow, that helps me keep things in perspective.”

“Yes Josh,” I agreed, “Putting things into percentages is a great idea. We’ve got 101 reviews so far (and 75 more when you count blog posts), with 4.8 stars out of 5. So yeah, one 1-star review is not too much to get upset about, even if she did say she’d have given us 0 if that was an option.”

“She’s an idiot.” Stated Josh, unequivocally.

“Who was that Becks?” asked Mona.

“It’s on our reviews page, they referred to themselves as ‘anonymous’, but I know who it was.” I answered.

“Well,” added Mona, clearly becoming protective, bless her: “I’d like to see her try to do what you guys did and then I would review her, and I wouldn’t pull any punches.”

I laughed inside as I recalled another audience member that popped onto centre stage in a nun-outfit, carrying a placard with words that didn’t rez before she was promptly ejected. “And, I’m surprised we got away with only one protestor!”

But that was another story, and it was Caity’s turn:

The Pressure to Create

“I have of course thought about it,” she started, “and read Becky’s post with the topic, and found it a bit sad. As I believe, but that maybe my character and how I am, creativity does NOT leave you.

“It shifts. When I am ‘blocked’ for some reason i automatically go do something else. I asked Becky last night, when she said she couldn’t write… what she did, and she said she went cooking. So…she didn’t lose her creativity, it just shifted to something else.”

“That’s a really good point,” said Josh.

“Also, and no I don’t do huge stuff in SL like projects, my creativity in SL is purely based on making pics, however, I know lots of people like my stuff. The fastest way to have me log off in a second is when I come somewhere, a venue/club and people say: oh, it’s Caity, she will for sure make some funny/cool pics of us we cannot wait…

“Pressure……. I hate it.

“I cannot be funny or cool or creative on command. It’s why I do not do pics on commission or request, they just… happen.

“Maybe it is how I am, and also a large bit of experience when growing older (cough) to accept from myself that I can not live up to expectations all the time, from others

“I did that… ages ago. It stressed me out. If now, in SL or RL with a painting or photography, I do not feel it… I accept that and go knitting (yes, I actually do that), or take my bike, or bake pies. And as said earlier, after a big project I always need the time to empty my head, before being ready to let a new one spark up

Caitlin breathed, in what felt to me like relief that she’d found an expression that worked best for her.

“A distinction I’ve considered here…” I said to Caitlin, “is that your creativity comes in short bursts.”

“It does.” She agreed.

“It’s just like breathing,” I added “you breathe it in, you breathe it out.”

“I don’t really think,” she clarified. “Then it happens as it goes. In a large project, as RL work, of course this was different, but I tried to keep it to SL for here 🙂 As Josh said, SL is supposed to be my fun time. The thing is, I also learned, during the past decades, you will not be a bad person if you screw up or do not deliver…”

“You rush a miracle, you get a bad miracle.” said Juliette.

Caitlin agreed.

“Not that it makes it any more important or valuable, only different,” I said, “but the pressure I feel, that may make it different, is that whatever my idea is: I’m going to have to commit about 500 hours to it.”

“Just don’t lie to yourself and then automatically you don’t lie to others,” she replied. “It is really not the end of the world if you can’t come up with a new wonderful idea within 6 weeks. A weird and off topic experience I use for myself: when I was young, my worst nightmare would be a cheating husband and that he left me behind… I thought that would kill me. It happened… I survived, better than I thought and… it did not kill me.

“It’s why I keep saying: it is not, really NOT the end of your world when you do not get ‘the’ spark in 6 weeks, so what if you get it in 3 months… pff. That’s good, you will adapt.” she said.

Kay interjected: “As a planner by nature, I can understand Becky’s thinking with the 6 week deadline, best launch time, etc.”

I nodded with Kay, then asked myself, why am I compelled to do this on a schedule?

“Yes,” I concluded, “I think it’s because of when I want to plan holidays, and other things in RL too. I don’t want them to conflict with my window of time for development.

Kay nodded and said: “You’re looking at what the optimal situation would be. And you might just come up with something wonderful by then. But the challenge will be if you don’t… and I suspect you will roll with it if that happens, and brilliance will happen on its own schedule.”

“I am convinced,” Caity added. “It will fall into place anyway, being the planner you are, no matter the date on the calendar.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence in you.” smiled Kay.

Wow. This was just amazing. To have these supportive friends who cared enough to question your views, while standing by your side, believing in you. Everyone should have this, shouldn’t they?

It was Caity, however, that broke the bubble: “Well that gives expectations too, eh?”

And we laughed.

“Let me say, I would not think anything less of you and Harvey if you do not deliver for a year… or two.”

I put my hands on my face in horror and said: “That’s unthinkable!”

“But it’s true. I am not your friend because you make such good plays you know.” she smiled as she mischievously stuck out her tongue.

“I know I know.” I smiled, turning the attention over to Kay. Even so, this grilling was not over yet 🙂

Part 3 follows on Saturday.

4 thoughts on “Maligned ducks, nasty reviews, and the pressure to create

  1. Another great salon topic Becky – I really enjoyed reading these last 2 posts. I find your ability to summarise the talks is really wonderful as you capture the essence of the discussions so well. Even if I can’t make the night, I can still catch up on what I missed. 🙂

    Something I’ve found incredibly useful for understanding and overcoming creative blocks is Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win your Inner Creative Battles. I’ll link to it below. The War of Art (awesome title) is based on the idea that we have an enemy he calls “the Resistance” (capital R) that we need to vigilantly work against in order to get our ideas and creativity out into the world. It provides an eye-opening, perspective on procrastination/creative blocks, and is a very well loved book amongst writers and creatives for this reason. He takes a tough love approach I think you will appreciate, and something encouraging he would say to you is that “The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death… The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it… “.


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