Thinking Out Loud 20: Advice Sucks

THINKING OUT LOUD is Drooly Dog’s Advice Column in which we talk about creative process and what might be holding back that voice of yours – whatever form it might take. Send your questions to:

Dear Drooly Dog:
This might seem weird to ask an advice column about this, but I think I’m going to lose my mind if I receive any more “advice” about how to be successful, or creative, or more myself, or my best self, or some form of better something.
I try to follow artists I admire and learn from them, and I think I often do learn good things. I’m a filmmaker, and films are complicated. It can really help to be grounded in good work and pay attention to people who really know what they are doing.
But sometimes it seems like the world is just filled with pithy quotes attributed to famous and successful people. I mean, you can’t even tell who even actually said any of this stuff.
And then there are the “master classes” where some famous person will charge you hundreds of dollars to learn what made them “great.” I’m sure those are scams, but sometimes there are major people attached to them!
Is any of this stuff any good? Do I have to spend a ton of money or go get a Masters degree in order to learn?
I want to learn and get better every day but frankly I’m sick of people trying to inspire me. No offense.
Sincerely, No More Advice

Dearest No More:
I hear you. I can’t scroll through anything anywhere without being assailed by photos of beaches or stage lights or something overlaid with white letters proclaiming something about how to be myself or reminding me of wisdom that may or may not have been uttered by a famous person.
First: All quotes are directly attributable to basically four people. Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Virginia Woolf. Everyone knows this, right? I mean every so often George Takei says something, I guess. But that’s about it. It’s all recycled.
Seriously, though — these types of memes and such are committing the fundamental mistake of confusing messy process with finished product. Both exist for different reasons and are very different experiences. Sitting around thinking about how some famous and/or successful person does their thing isn’t going to help you.
What will help you is hanging out with other artists while you are all muddling through process together. In your case, other filmmakers. Talking about what you are stuck on, sharing rough cuts, giving each other feedback and motivation. THAT will make a difference for you.
So ditch the memes and go find some actual people who do what you do. Commiserate and complain and make a big mess. Bitch at each other if the work isn’t getting done. And, go to galleries and other work spaces as well. See lots of messes.
You need some plain old, day to day, workaday community. None of these beach scenes with overlaid text. That’s people trying to cash in on their visibility or success. That’s what the whole self-help section of the bookstore is for.
(By the way I’m all for self-help books as well as philosophy, case studies, and anything else you enjoy reading. Go for it.)
I agree, advice can really suck. Except mine, which is excellent.
Sincerely, Drooly Dog

Drooly Dog offers creative advice only. Nothing legal or medical, please follow of your own accord. It’s up to you, man.

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