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Find me! Call DAP at 214.350.7678 or email rene@dallasaudiopost.com. Also check out echocollectivefx.com for custom sfx, and tonebenders.net for my podcast.

Wednesday, January 11

On abandoning work

I was listening to the Let's Make Mistakes podcast today, and Katie said something interesting that I felt like I wanted to weigh in on.

They were discussing point number one on this article

1. Choose better problems to solve

Designers are, by definition, problem-solvers. And the world has never been so blessedly full of  problems. Our infrastructure is rotting, the economy is crap, Wall Street is awash with criminals and millions of people can’t get basic medical care, food and water. We don’t need another app to rate your sandwich. We don’t need to know when we go to sleep and get up. We do not need digital farms. We need real ones. We need fresh water. We need solutions for the apocalypse.

Now, that's pretty high minded for an audio application, but during the discussion (around 23 minutes in) Katie said something along the lines of "its about stop trying to save bad work - like trying to salvage something you've been working hard on.  You'd be amazed how much time people waste on that"

I think that this can be applied to audio work as well.  Its important when managing one's work assets to recognize what is busywork vs what is genuinely useful.  It's also important to recognize which projects don't ever really have a chance of working out as well as we want them to.

I used to struggle with this.  I'd spend weeks pruning and cleaning and tagging and cataloguing and organizing the most useless and trivial of sounds.  I'd document and mark and save every synth setting I used even though I never found myself coming back to those settings in the context of other projects, and instead building new ones for new projects.

Gradually I learned how to evaluate the usefulness of what I had in front of me and was able to stop polishing and finishing out the sounds that I'd never find useful in a project.

One of the points of growth that I have had as a professional is to develop my own aesthetic.  This means that I've learned what I like vs what I don't.  And over time I've been able to learn to stop acquiring and editing and cataloguing and taking up brain space with things I don't like or can't use (for the purposes of gaining experience), so that I have more brain space to do those things to sounds I DO like.  This was a big step for me.

The same sentiment can be applied broadly to side projects, since each ends up taking a ton of brainspace, time and effort.  Time spent really evaluating and critiquing a project on the front end can lead to a surprising number of concept rejections, which is a good thing because it keeps you focused on the truly interesting and beautiful things that should command your effort and attention. 

In the end remember:  Just because you worked very hard on something doesn't mean that it's any good.  Learn to continuously and brutally evaluate things you're working on and then learn to get out of projects that aren't or aren't going to be any good, regardless of how much work you've put into them. 


DogandPonyShow said...

Wise words, wish it hadn't taken me so long to figure that out!

tim said...

Some valuable thoughts on this topic are outlined very well in a book called THE DIP by Seth Godin - worth a read, as it helps clarify whether a project is worth persevering with or abandoning...


Rene said...

book looks interesting, I'll have to check it out. really this blog was as much a passing thought as anything. clearly something that deserves deeper looks on my end.