Archive for June, 2013

Now, now, now!

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

There is a Buddhist tale of an arrogant woman who sought enlightenment but who instead ended up with a demon chasing her with a stick, yelling “Now! Now! Now!” These days, I think social media is that demon.

I was brought to mind of this a few times recently when I noticed that people want “the news” now. Right friggin’ now. Not in 15 minutes and certainly not the next day, but now. And by “the news” they mean the details of some event as it is unfolding, even (and here’s the kicker) if they have no real connection to the event.

This seems to be the new normal. Some event takes place, something that a few years ago we would have been perfectly satisfied to hear about on the next morning’s news show or, a few years before that, to read about in a newspaper the next day. But today, people want to know every minute detail and they want it real-friggin-time and if they don’t get it it’s as if people have lost some fundamental right.

Last night, for example, there was a debate and filibuster in the Texas legislature about a bill that would severely restrict abortion. For people living in Texas, this is an important event. But for someone who isn’t a resident and who has no closer connection than knowing people who do live in Texas, this isn’t urgent news. Actually, even for Texans it wasn’t urgent. I mean, it’s not like a tornado bearing down on a population center or a crazed shooter on the loose. There is nothing that anyone, other than the legislators themselves, could do about the event. Either the filibuster would be successful, or it wouldn’t, and no amount of tweeting about it would change that.

And yet people were tweeting like mad last night, mostly rumors and RTs from citizens on the scene who were not professional reporters, who did not have a grasp on the whole story, and who didn’t fact-check. This drives me crazy as the worst evidence for accuracy is often eye witness testimony. We simply get it wrong. We don’t see the story. But Twitter was packed with this crap.

Thing is, I did find legit news last night. I found Texas publications and local TV news divisions and I checked their tweets. I’m one of those people who was only interested because I am interested in the law and how it affects reproductive rights. The Texas law wouldn’t affect me directly. I was one of those tertiary people for whom it was news, small-n. For me, I knew I’d get the story when I got the story and I knew that if that was now or in 15 minutes or in the morning it wouldn’t make a real difference–I’d still learn what happened.

Anyway, like I said I found legit sources and sure, their tweets were not immediate, but they were only delayed by what I image was the time required to fact-check and confirm from multiple reliable sources. Most importantly, these tweets were accurate.

Today, people I know, non-Texans, were complaining that they couldn’t find real-time news of the goings on and that social media had displaced the legitimate news sources since one could only get information from sources like Twitter. They acted like the news organizations of the world had screwed them but good, because they didn’t get it now, now, now, and legitimate news organizations like the AP had become “useless.”

This is beyond sad. This is why journalists, including photo journalists, are losing work. We have lost our perspective on what news is and when we need to get that information. We have sacrificed accuracy and depth for the demon of now, now, now. Journalists need time to do their work. They are trained and have the experience to see the story and to tell the story, but they need time to make that happen. Even photojournalists who capture events that happen in a split-second often tell a bigger story with more images that give the “money shot” its context. Again, time is required.

We all have heard the old saw Fast, Good, Cheap… pick two. That’s as true for journalism and the media as it is for advertising and any other business.

Think about your own behavior and see if you are contributing to this downfall, this acceptance of crap “citizen journalism” that now replaces legitimate reporting far too often. Do you really need to know something now, or will it not make any difference if you don’t get the information for an hour, or a day? Call out your friends who add to the noise without actually contributing to the understanding of the story.

Almost always, it won’t kill any of us to wait.

What Are You Waiting For?

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Yesterday, I saw that a promising reporter was killed in an auto accident in Los Angeles. He was 33. This morning, there was news a best-selling novelist had died of an aggressive cancer. He was 47. And now, as I sat down to begin writing this piece, the news confirmed that James Gandolfini (star of The Sopranos) had died. He was 51.

I share this data with you not to depress but to remind you that life is unpredictable and often way too short. So, what are you waiting for?

Are you afraid of failing? Why? What is the worst that will happen? You’ll lose your home and end up living under a bridge someplace, and you have kids?

Lame excuse.
You read me right, that is just lame.
Guess what, you can do everything right and that dark future can still happen.

Or you can do everything right and get hit by a bus. Or have a heart attack or get cancer or, well, just about anything.

You have one chance at this life (well, one conscious one, if the Hindus and Buddhists, et al., are right) and you have no control over when it will end. So, I ask again, What are you waiting for?

You chose to be an artist and with that came the requirement that you have faith. Not faith in a god (not that you can’t have that) but faith in yourself, in your art, and that somehow you’ll make it all work. That fabulous. It’s amazing. It’s actually empowering if you stop shaking in your boots and look at it.

Being an artist requires you actually acting on that faith. You can’t say “I choose to be a photographer/designer/writer…” and then play it safe. You have to do. You have to leap. You have to try and fail (or succeed) and try again and fail (or succeed) and keep doing that over and over again.

For the rest of your life.
That is the bargain you agreed to when you chose to be a professional artist. You have to make, and do, and (sometimes) make do.

The one thing you cannot do is wait for things to be perfect before taking the next step. I’m sick of hearing artists say “I can’t send the promo because the site isn’t perfect” or “I’m not sure my list/promo/portfolio/edit/studio/haircut is perfect so I can’t____.” I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.

If you make some excuse for not doing, then get a real fucking job because you don’t deserve to be an artist. You don’t have the guts.

I say that with love (you know that, I hope, by now).
But it is true.

Frankly, it’s true for any profession. It’s as true for me as it is for you. We have to get out there and do. We can’t be bound up by the fears of getting stuff wrong (which, by the way, is much worse in my profession than yours) or failing. We have to do and leap and try. Every bloody day.

Not only will doing this give you your best shot at being successful (and it will), it will make you happier in the process. Following your dream, doing what you love, isn’t that worth the risk of trying? Why be an artist if you never get to make your own art?

Life is (sadly) short for too many people. We don’t know when our last breath will come. No matter how well we treat our bodies, it is ultimately out of out control when Death will come. And each of you deserves to have loved the life you have. The only way for that to happen is to try, to do, to make your art, to follow your dream, to risk, to fail, and to do it all again the next day.

So, what are you waiting for?


Are You What You Put Out There?

Monday, June 17th, 2013

When I was doing the dating thing not too very long ago (I’ve been seeing one person for some months now), I paid particular attention not only to how any date treated me, but how he treated the waitstaff and others “in service.” I waited tables for years so I know this is a good measure of the jerk-factor and I was pretty much spot-on with that test.

This recent article by the Harvard Business Review mentions that same test as well as some others to see whether you are hiring or working with the best people. See, it not just a case of what training someone has had or what their technical skills are, a person’s humanity is quite important too.

It’s important for you not only in the people you hire or choose to work with, but also in how your potential clients see you. Would they want to hire you–you the person you put out there?

So read the article and look at your own behavior and habits. Do you get frustrated and snippy fast with gate agents or waitstaff, or do you treat them with kindness and compassion (even when they screw up)? Do you complain about changes in a project or do you go into let’s figure out how to make it work mode? Do you hang out with people who are jerky or who are kind? Do you spend your off-hours reading interesting stuff or sitting like a lump watching reality tv or something?

If you find that you may appear less “humane” than you thought, you can change that. Start saying “please” and “thank you” more to everyone. Smile. Choose to let go of the frustration of change and instead embrace its challenges (especially on work projects).

Being a kinder, more compassionate person will draw people to you, including clients.

The importance of language

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Yesterday I had a Twitter “spat” with the representative (unnamed) of a new company called Kunvay. The interaction on Twitter, and the company’s website, show how language can be used to manipulate very effectively. Under the guise of being “open” and “helping” this company is really just another tool to make it easier for creatives to lose out.

This company spins itself as, and I (sadly) quote, being “on a mission to make the world safe for creativity.” How do they do this? By offering a “service” to make it easier for creatives to sign away their rights, their full copyrights, to client/buyers.

Do they negotiate better deals for creatives?

Do they encourage creatives not to give away their rights?

Do they make it sound like they are empowering creatives?
Yup, and they make it sound like they are doing it to help by making it free for the creative.
Gee, thanks… at least you aren’t making the creatives pay while they lose out by selling off (or giving away) their most important assets!

One of the things that came out of our “spat” was that they got legal advice from “Silicon Valley lawyers.” This alone should be a big frickin’ red flag to any creative professional. Another thing that was revealed was that they don’t even know that the plural of “attorney” doesn’t include an apostrophe (brilliant). Another was that they challenged me to prove I was a licensed attorney, even though you can look me up on the California Bar website and my Twitter profile says I’m a member of the CA Bar–and all this while never even giving me a human name (for whoever was writing their tweets). I was challenging their business model but they were attacking my professionalism and credibility.

Possibly the most offensive thing was that they asked why I had such an interest in copyright, saying that I seemed terribly strident and asking “Did you get burned?” This is covert sexism. I’m vehement about my pro-copyright stand and therefore I must be acting out from an emotional hurt? Really? I know they never would have written that if I were a man. No question. But as a woman, in their eyes, I couldn’t possibly just be a professional who cares about artists and their rights because, hey, it’s the right thing to do.

So, again I’ll write here what I tweeted: stay away from Kunvay; keep your copyrights. Creative professionals don’t need help to give away their rights–it happens every day. What creative professionals need are tools to protect their rights, and people to advocate for continuing strong copyright.