I have been working on a painting on and off for about the last three months…… and slowly I’ve come to hate it. The more I do the worse it seems to get. Making matters more difficult is the fact I went to see a Jean Michel Basquiat exhibit a few weeks ago, so now nothing I do will ever equal what I saw on the walls of the gallery. As I sat there staring at my painting yesterday I did something I’ve never done before. I picked it up, and turned it upside down … then looked again. Suddenly what was wrong with the balance of the piece became glaringly obvious to me.
It made me realize something that could be applied to life. If you are struggling with something, whether it’s a script you can’t get right, or an edit of something that just doesn’t flow, or you can’t seem to get arrested at job interviews – whatever it is you need to change your perspective and look at it in a new way.
When this struck me I realized I had in fact done this once before in my career while watching a rough cut of a short film. As I sat there with the editor and director I became so overcome by the words that were being spoken by the actors because I had written them that I couldn’t watch. All I could do was listen and cringe at every last sentence that was spoken, because I was a newbie and it didn’t flow as naturally as it should. So I said something that got me a strange look, “Can we please watch it through once with the sound turned off?” They both shrugged and played it again for me but this time I could see the story clearly unfolding and wasn’t overwhelmed by the mistakes I’d made with the dialogue. I got to just sit and look at the visuals, and that’s what I needed to do in order to put it back into perspective again, and to get over myself and my critical judgments.
If you are struggling with something, this feeling of being frozen in place and unable to make a move or a decision comes when we’ve been with it too long, or are trying something new and haven’t yet learned to trust your instincts, it’s important to step away and find some way to come at the problem from another angle. If for example you are going to endless job interviews and are never getting hired can you turn this problem on its head and approach it in a different way? How can you think outside of the box and turn things around for yourself? And in most of these cases the aid of someone else is what the doctor ordered.
Often times other people see what we don’t see, because we all have different perspectives and different things catch our attention. We all don’t even watch a movie the same way. As for me I sit in the theater imagining the scene direction that was written on the script. Not a great way to watch a movie but hey that’s me. A career coach or good friend could be a big help in preparing you for job interviews and helping you figure out what you are doing wrong and why you’re not sealing the deal. Practicing so you are prepared for unexpected questions and learning to think quickly on your feet can be a very important skill to have.
Even with the many crafts that go into making a film or television series, sometimes you may not be so sure of yourself and want someone else to weigh in. And that’s okay as long as it’s someone you trust… both for their discretion and for their solid opinions. Don’t always feel that what you’re doing has to be one hundred percent there before sharing with another. If you’re feeling unsure or stuck, someone else’s enthusiasm and interest in what you are doing can allow you to see things with fresh eyes and in a different light. And it’s also very heartening to hear that the concerns you are having are also the concerns of someone else. They can see why you are wrestling with it. They may not have an answer for you to correct it, but at least now you know you’re on the right track and it’s not all in your head. And sometimes the opposite will occur, where you’ve been struggling with something, you show it to a few people and they don’t know what the heck you’re talking about. In fact they think it’s great. Sometimes in order to stop obsessing and put the pencil down we need someone else to tell us its time.
I remember being involved in a short film many many years ago, and the writer was wrestling with the script so had started to ask for opinions. Problem was they weren’t willing to listen to any of those opinions, and would go on their merry way writing draft after sickening draft. It got worse and worse every version I read finally pushing me to say I was removing myself from the project – of course knowing it wasn’t going to be worth the blood, sweat, and tears it takes to make a film if the script sucked, which it in fact did.
The fail here was that there were lots of people weighing in, but the person’s ears were closed to hearing anything they didn’t want to hear. If you are involving people you have to be willing and able to listen to what they have to say. I’m not telling you that you have to agree with it, but if someone feels strongly enough to have voiced a concern chances are going there’s at least a seed of something valid in what they are saying. Don’t just write other people’s opinions off because they are telling you things you aren’t yet ready or willing to hear. If you asked then be open to the criticism….and praise you might receive. Could go either way.
So like the painting, turn what you are doing upside down and look at it from another angle. And sometimes letting other people in is the only way to do this effectively.