Finding the Good: Compliment Work Even When It's Not Your Taste

community cultivation Aug 31, 2023


The road to becoming a working artist is paved with ongoing struggles, and it often feels like a solitary journey. But it needn't be journeyed alone. One of the easiest, yet most often dismissed ways to cultivate a vibrant artistic community is simply to acknowledge and celebrate the creative work of our peers. And yet so many creatives I know practically refuse to tell someone they enjoyed their work if it didn't meet their lofty standards of excellence.

And, look, I get it. I don’t love a lot of other actors’ work but, to be quite honest, who the f*&# cares?


The Battle Between Good Sense and Ego


So, why don’t we pass along our warm thoughts and congratulations? Inflated sense of self-worth? Fear of appearing too lenient in their judgment? God forbid someone ever catch wind that we told someone we enjoy something that might have been less than stellar. Would our reputation be destroyed?

Actors are also often chasing the ever elusive idea of “authenticity” in all aspects of their lives. It makes sense because it’s what we want our creative work to be but let’s hold “lifting up” someone else’s work in the same regard as that lifestyle shot you posted yesterday. Authentic with a twist ;)

Regardless of the reason, it's misguided, counter intuitive if not harmful to our collective artistic spirit.

The legendary Stephen Sondheim, one of our most celebrated artists of the past century, once penned a piece stating that if you attended one of his shows, the only feedback he wanted to hear afterwards was how much you loved it. Period. He didn’t need to know how much you loved the first act “but the second act still needs work” or that you really enjoyed the music “but feel like it could use a few more ballads”. If one of the greatest artists to ever live can admit that’s what he’s looking for, I think we can all get aboard the “spread the love” train because flattery and artistry don’t have to contradict each other.

Isn't it a universal desire for folks to love our work? Though we may claim we’re only looking for "the truth", I call bullshit. Yes, we may want genuine thoughts from our trusted inner circle but everyone else from agent assistants to other acquaintances from within the industry, we’re hoping to hear how much they loved our performances.

Therefore, dish out what you know you’d appreciate. Doing so can pave the way for a deeper connection. And why?


We All Have Egos and We Like Them Stroked


Most egos are fairly fragile and few instances is this more true than in the entertainment industry. Just look at that one actor whose head might pop off if they get the simple note to speak a little louder. With some folks, you’d think you’d just killed their cat the way they react to criticism.

Therefore, the opposite is also true. Appealing to someone’s ego is low hanging fruit when it comes to forging a connection. They will likely respond with humility, false or not, and you’ll be well on your way to taking the connection to the next level. And that’s the entire point, right? We’re always looking for inroads to a meaningful connection and beginning with recognizing the value of an artist’s work is a really terrific starting place. As always, it’s all about who you know and who you know is your responsibility.

Recognizing this, it's time to reassess our reticence in praising our peers' work. There's no need to let our "elite judgment" cloud our ability to uplift others. Because who does it hurt? You and only you.

Praising others' work, even if it doesn't fit our mold of excellence, isn't a sign of weakness. It's a mark of grace, empathy, and respect for the creative journey we are all undertaking. Because, in the end, we're all in this together. Let's make the journey a bit more enjoyable for everyone. After all, every artist deserves their moment in the sun. Let's be the ones to give it to them.

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