Friday, April 10, 2015

Managing Critical Voices Part Two: Ahab

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"All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab..." ~Moby Dick, Herman Melville

In my last post, I took an author's advice (from an article I read in the Harvard Business Review) naming my inner critical voices Ahab and Twinkletoes.  For Part Two of the update, I'm going to write about Ahab: my maddening, tormenting, malicious, brain-caking, uber-critical inner voice.

Ahab's an obsessed, anal retentive, myopic prick if there ever was one-- that goes for Melville's crazy Ahab as well as my (inner) crazy Ahab. Every photo I snap he finds fault with.  Every. Single. One. For my inner Ahab, there is no perfect or near-perfect image in my many albums and collections of pics I've snapped. There is no single "amazing" image of mine, much less a number of them. There is no photo I've ever taken without flaws and, for Ahab, there probably will never be one.  That's how Ahab rolls, unconscionable prick that he is.

But, as much as Ahab persecutes, harasses, and sometimes vexes me, I love the guy. I wouldn't trade him in for an inner voice that's more lenient, forgiving, and less focused on the negatives. (That's part of Twinkletoes' job anyway.) I'll tell you why I love and value Ahab.

First off, Ahab is responsible for motivating me to continue learning about photography. I may not ever be able to satisfy Ahab -- so be it then -- but, because of Ahab, I'll never consider my education in photography complete. In fact, Ahab's constant criticisms not only drive me to learn how to overcome them but, in the process of learning how to rise above his many criticisms -- not that it's possible to do so --  I often find new things to learn about. (Whether it's how to do something new, do something I already know how to do but to do it better, learn the "Why?" of things I do, or even learn what sorts of gear might help me A) not make the same mistakes again or B) discover how to do things simpler and easier which, often enough, reduces the likelihood of mistakes and errors while shooting. (Cuz it frees my mind from having to deal with complexities.)

Next, Ahab keeps me on my toes whenever I'm shooting. Ahab's anal retentive qualities force me to consciously and constantly examine the details in my viewfinder and my shooting environments. Does that mean I never miss a thing I should have noticed when shooting? Things that often will take my photos down a notch or two or three? Yeah. I wish.  But Ahab's constant critical nagging definitely lessens the occurrences of missing such things because, frankly, I don't want to listen to Ahab carry on when I'm later editing my photos and he's pointing accusatory fingers at me with an overbearing scowl on his face. And by "fingers," I mean Ahab doesn't limit himself to using his index finger alone when pointing out my photographs' flaws. He's fond of using another finger as well. (Not that Ahab looks at anything with fondness.)

Finally, although there are other good reasons for Ahab's value to me, this final one I'm mentioning might be Ahab's most important job-- Ahab provides balance with Twinkletoes. (Whose role it is to pat me on the back for jobs well done.)  Twinkletoes does more than that, of course, and it's not all positive stuff, i.e., positive in terms of creating positive change in how I perform as a shooter and/or the results of my shooting.  But I'll save that discussion, the Twinkletoes discussion, for Part Three of these Managing Critical Voices updates.

I'll bet more than a few of you have your own Ahabs.  I think they're fairly common amongst photographers. If you don't have an Ahab, you should try to discover or develop one. Ahabs, in my opinion, are absolutely necessary to developing as a photographer. Ahabs help prevent us from becoming too full of ourselves. Too impressed with our work. Too willing to gloss over the flaws in our photos. Less willing to do things like play the "art card" as bad excuses for bad or flawed photography. Ahabs, in many ways, keep us real. If you're someone whose inner critical voices are all Twinkletoes and no Ahab, you have a serious problem and, in all likelihood, you're going nowhere as a photographer.

I'm temporarily brain-farting on the name of the tormented-by-her-clothing pretty girl at the top. Beyond the clothes-tearing, which I directed her to do, the action is well in line with her general personality. Trust me when I tell you she's a fairly crazy chick.

Not to bore you with a personal story but, this one time, at band camp... I mean at this party I was at, she wanted to go for a ride on my Harley.  No problemo. I'm a geezer. I don't turn down pretty women who want to hop on the back of my ride. Especially, when they're hotties,  "free spirit" types, and more than a couple of decades younger than me. (But still of age, of course.) So, off we went.

Ten minutes later or so, we're  over the speed limit cruising up a fairly major, four-lane avenue in LA's West San Fernando Valley. Suddenly, I feel her bouncing around behind me shouting "Yee-hah!" or something.   I turn my head. She had pulled off her bikini top -- the party was a pool party -- and was spinning it around above her head while whooping and hollering loudly. (Course, the roar of my bike's engine mostly drowned that out, Harley's being quite loud and all.) Thankfully, no cops were around. I would have been more than a little pissed-off getting a ticket or ending up in the back of a patrol with her along side me and my bike impounded. Cops don't always have a sense of humor for that kind of stuff. 

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