All my life, I have been competitive and critical. With these traits, it seems difficult, or sometimes, even impossible to just appreciate and enjoy things. What I would give to be able to say, ‘that was good’ and mean it… without thinking of any additional embellishments or critique.
Yesterday, we watched Les Miserables at Barbican Centre and it followed with a ScreenTalk with the production designer, Eve Stewart. What struck me was how humble she was and how virtuous she came across, whilst she was answering the various questions posed to her. She referred to her celebrity colleagues in such a friendly way that you would not have guessed that they all earned millions, and yet, she unabashedly complimented them, singing praises with such sincerity.
I have no doubt that she truly respects all her colleagues and completely means it when she calls them ‘geniuses’. What I yearn for is precisely this ability to be critical about your own work (and others’ too) but are able to appreciate good work for what it is, without needing to find something to be critical about. I think what I am looking for is a balance between humility and glorification.
A lot of art is created in an environment of fervour, where the creator is in complete abandonment to his creation, stopping at nothing to complete it. A lot of art is not shown or made public because after the passion subsides, the creator sometimes feels embarrassed by the product, lacking the confidence to present it to the world, probably in fear of criticism.
In all the work that we do, whatever it is, we will always be in a position to either help and support someone or put them down. It is always easier to put them down with critical words, than to see the beauty and help them accept it, or if appropriate, improve it.
I have just been given the brilliant opportunity to experience what it means to be an editor and to learn the skills of one, and I find that my first personal hurdle is in finding this balance between humility and glorification. I am confident that I write well, but I cannot let my own writing style take over someone else’s voice. I have to learn to appreciate a story that is not mine, a story that I may not like or even agree with, but to appreciate it for its value and quality. At the same time, I need to empathise with the writer to understand why the story was written and I cannot glorify it too much, in fear that it blinds me from the flaws. Only then, will I be able to try and use the skills that I have to edit and help the writer to make his/her story more fluent, more entertaining, but still in his/her own voice.