People love putting things into neat little boxes.
For stuff like infrastructure design, this is great. I'm super glad that road space is well defined enough for you to not kill me in your car. I'm also pretty happy with Netflix's ability to read my tastes and present relevant content.
When we're creating, though, it can be hard to disconnect from all the genres, categories, and subreddits. It's easy to think "what I'm doing feels so different from anything else".
I've found that sentiment to be rarely true. We don't experience life in a vacuum, so why on earth would learning in one work?
Today's post is a look into a few concepts I've always returned back to when trying to make progress in any craft.
1. Take Breaks.
Our brains are so damn good at adjusting our senses to accommodate our environments. It’s why loud concerts quickly become familiar, or the noise of your parent’s old air conditioner doesn’t drive you to the brink of insanity every second it churns.
What this means for production is that after a certain amount of time (around 30 min - 1 hr), your brain will no longer be accurately registering what you are working on in reference to the outside world.
You are effectively in a bubble, and have lost your context to work in. This is why after you’ve been working on the same little detail for hours on end, you are no longer able to tell if any of the changes you're making are “better” or “worse” - they’re just different.
You need to take consistent breaks at least once an hour. Find a quiet space, do something different - it really doesn’t matter, so long as you’re not activating the same sense you just were. If you’re painting, close your eyes and listen to your favorite album. If you’re making music, read something in silence for a few minutes.
The bottom line is: give yourself time to reset. You’ll return to your work with a fresh perspective on what you were doing, and you’ll save yourself countless hours of stress.
2. Leave Space.
As humans, we tend to focus more on what is there, and not what isn’t. In music we listen to the sounds themselves, while we perceive the space between notes as the background - something certainly different from the music, right?
In visual art, we often look for identifiable objects, shapes, and symbols first, and perceive the space between to be the background.
The truth is, however, that there is no foreground or background.
There in fact is no “empty space” at all. even the space between these words isn’t empty - it’s full of pixels and data behind a screen. You’re just perceiving it as “empty” because you are focused on the words.
Let’s return to the analogy of music: have you ever heard a song that just had too much going on? It’s like there’s no main idea, and everything is competing for your attention.
When we produce, we’re not always focused on space and contrast as much as we are with creating the main idea, or the foreground. In fact, our usual inclination is to fill up every little piece of space on the screen, or canvas, or song. it makes us feel like we’re doing the most with what we have, however it’s also counterintuitive to how we consume media.
You’re always perceiving something, even if the intention of that something is for you to perceive it as nothing.
The perceived differences between that something and nothing manifests as the overall contrast of the work.
3. Perfectionism Leads to Over-Production
Finishing stuff is hard. Letting go is hard. Doing it on a concrete timeline feels damn near next to impossible sometimes, but the bottom line is that you just have to get it out.
You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to learn things along the way that you wish you knew, and by the end (or even middle) of the project you’re going to see 8 new ways to do it.
There is a certain brilliance in understanding when to let an idea evolve, and when to cut it off. Never be afraid to embrace going in a new direction, but always have discretion and awareness of the original intent.
Sometimes you just have to finish a shitty idea, move on, and start over with more knowledge. Don’t be afraid of it - embrace it.
Speaking of finishing...
It looks like I'm about done here. I really take no credit for these principles, because they're just that - principles. Things we inherently know to be true, that I too often forget myself.