Did you know that, when you look at a portfolio for an artist, you’re looking at their best work?
It’s a shocking revelation, I know. I’ll let you sit down and take it in.
Did you know that, when you read a book you’ve bought, whether from highstreet or Amazon, you’re reading a fully edited, final version of a novel?
Again, another shock.
Last week I wrote about Kicking the Perfection Addiction and I’m not quite done. I want to talk about Highlight reels. Specifically those perfect highlight reels, the ones our idols have.
In life, we are often forced to view the “highlight reels” of other people. Whether we follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or even here on WordPress, you can often be subjected to simply how good someone else has it. Pictures of all the great things that are happening, statuses and updates about all their good news. It’s why Social Media has often been shown in a negative light. People are less likely to publicise the bad things, and we’re more likely to just assume that what we see is a representation of their lives as a whole. Really, it’s more likely that they have their tough times too, their mellow moments, their tough times, but they go unseen behind the reel. Thing is this is true for all us creative types.
One thing I did before setting up Level Up Photography was scout the local competition; it was perhaps the most disheartening thing I’ve ever done. Turns out that in the West Midlands there are some very good photographers; photographers that, honestly, put my work to shame. It caused me to tremble and doubt my future goals. I was no longer sure if I “had what it takes” to be a Wedding/Event Photographer. Then, I started to think about Highlight Reels and Portfolios. We have a portfolio for our shots at Level Up and we have even showcased some on out blog post for World Photography Day. These are some of our favourite shots, some of our best shots, and whilst they’re a good reflection of our work, and the work we supply to the customer, they’re by no means examples of every shot we take, or even every end product. Chances are, sometimes you produce, say 300 photos; where 250 are A* Photos, 25 are A, and the other 25 are B (or even C). Photos are fickle things, and sometimes you capture a fantastic memory that isn’t quite right (Angle is off, expression is off, etc. etc.). However, when I compare my work to the competition, where all I can see is 5 or 6 select photos on their website and not some 300 odd they’re supplying to each and every customer, I’m merely viewing their Highlight Reel. If I remember this, it’s a lot less disheartening. Of course their best work is on their front page, nobody strikes gold with every camera shot.
This is true of Writing as well. If you’re like me, reading a good book fills you with two feelings:
First: Seriously, how good is this book?!
Second: No seriously, how good is this book and why will I never be able to write something like this?!
If I go back and look at my part-started first draft, whilst comparing it to my favourite work of fiction, it looks, for lack of a better phrase, fucking dreadful. That’s why it is important to remember that a book is part of an Authors Highlight Reel, especially a book that’s been accepted by a main publisher. I think it’s easy to forget, when we’re slaving over those first drafts, that every Author goes through this process. Thing is we never see this process. It’s not something we’re privy to. We never saw Harry Potter in his awkward first stages, we never felt all those rejections J. K. Rowling went through til her work found a home. We certainly don’t ever see a published piece of work that hasn’t been through the eyes of an editor (unless you’re picking up some particularly unwitting indie novel).
My experience with both my Creative Writing Course and WordPress have helped me with this. To my genuine surprise, I’ve learnt just how awful a first draft actually is… For Everyone. I’ve learnt how much work an editor really does… For Everyone. What could, in some lights, be seen as scare stories have actually built my confidence in my writing. I don’t fear writing something that is terrible anymore; I don’t fear writing my first draft in case it sucks. I’ve finally learnt to just write, write, and write some more. You need to go through that initial process to make something worthy of your own highlight reel; so that someone will look back and say “Wow, So-And-So has it good, don’t they?”
The point I’m trying to make is; don’t compare yourself to someone else, especially when you only see a highlight reel. They may not be “fake”, but they’re vastly unrepresentative of the majority of someone’s life. Appreciate what you have and work hard for what you want. It’s easy to forget that the rough comes before the smooth; that a lot of hard work comes before a beautiful finished product.
Do you have someone you’re always comparing yourself to? Well don’t! Instead, as an exercise, why not let me know in the comments what would be on your real-life highlight reel? Even the small things count!