The Subjective Arts


This is a topic that’s been on my mind a lot lately: everything I write, shoot, create, and make a living on, is 100% subjective.

This thinking comes hot off the heels of several reviews I got for my feature length screenplay, Two Wolves.Some reviewers gave it an 8/10 on a certain website (only about 5% of all scripts submitted are an 8 or higher). Then I got a random 3/10 by someone whose expanded feedback was literally the same as my higher-scored review. Then, another competition that I entered made me a semifinalist. Writing: It’s Fucking Crazy!

All joking aside, it’s kind of depressing how if you’re an artist, filmmaker, photographer, writer, whatever– your work needs to be somehow validated. Everything you make is for an audience, and it’s amazing how differently people react to things.

Some people can’t even be consistent with their own opinions…I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had clients tell me they “LOVE” my latest edit or video, only to come back with a list of complaints and end up re-doing the whole project.

I get it. This is the price I have to pay for doing what I love: you, dear reader, have to love it, too. But it kills me that because I’m “following my passion,” some people think it’s OK to not even pay very much at all.

Sometimes I feel wildly jealous of my photographer friends who just edit their photos and send them off to their clients, usually with minimal back and forth. For me, just getting the right interview sequence can take days as I work with the client to bring their concept to life. That means it’s a huge time investment– one that some clients (and potential clients) don’t think is worth very much. But that’s the other side of being an artist as well: even your worth is subjective. 

Now, I’m lucky that I have a slew of amazing clients that keep my business chugging along. But damn, sometimes I look at my husband’s spreadsheets and models and think to myself: “his job has a right answer and a wrong answer.” And it makes me feel so weird, to know that because his work is such a concrete “yes” or “no” that it must be valued more.

There are times when the back and forth is just so exhausting that I wish someone could get out a calculator and assess my Vimeo account like a math equation. Did she include good music? +5. No establishing shot of the subject’s home? -3. And then, based on some crazy rubric, I’d get paid a certain amount.

Now, sometimes I’m glad that’s not the way my career operates. But there are days where the negative feedback and the positive comments just get so jumbled I want to hide under the covers. Other times, I get so afraid of sharing my good fortune online or to friends that I’m afraid that just by putting it out there it’ll go to shit. All it takes is a negative comment to counteract the good feelings gained from a positive one. So every day for me just feels like this tightrope of approval that’s hard not to take personally, despite it being given in a professional capacity.

So, what am I doing to combat this unhealthy balance? I think it’s a combination of different tactics. First of all, having this blog is such a big help. I think I get about 8 views a day, to be honest. But, having a place where I feel free to write for myself, and not some client or Facebook network is so, so freeing. Just getting my thoughts into a post helps me hone my analytical writing skills, and gives me refuge from the ratings that my words garner elsewhere.

Another thing that I (hope) will help is that I’m working on launching a new product. I won’t say what it is (see? because you might hate it!) but know this: there is a wrong way to do it, and a right way to do it. It’ll be using all my creativity, that’s for sure, but it’ll also be about craftsmanship and attention to detail. No back and forth. No indecisive buyers. It either works or it doesn’t. And that’s so liberating, just the thought of it feels like a different planet.

Who knows, maybe I’ll quit the idea before it even gets off the ground. But dreaming about it is what gives me the lift I need when I get less-than-stellar feedback.

So, to my 8 readers, any other tips and tricks to combat the all of the above? I’m dying (dying!) to hear your thoughts.