How to judge your work

When peacocks are hatched, they are ugly grey balls of fluff. When you snap a Polaroid, it is grey, then murky, washed out. When a baker puts a cake in the oven, it is runny, mealy, and inedible. A great burgundy goes into the bottle as grape juice. When a marathoner crosses the finish line, her body is depleted, her heart is erratic, her brain is mush. When you are clinging to the side of a mountain, your face pressed against the granite — you can’t see its shape against the sky, its majesty.

Judgement require distance and perspective. The drama of the creative process takes a while to unwind and calm down. All that adrenaline needs to be flushed from the system. The paint takes time to dry and reach its true hue. All your many decisions need to settle into each other, to lose the emotion of the struggle.

So often, I read a years-old essay and am surprised by it. It is funny, it is wise, and most surprisingly, I wrote it. But when I did, I thought it was crap. I flip back through a long-closed sketchbook and am reminded of what it was like to draw it; I see my decisions of the moment with clarity and respect. The wonkiness is no longer a source of anxiety; I recognize it as emotion, as style, as the deliberate choice of a part of me that was operating from a great depth.

The time to judge your work is after the clang of battle has died down, the dust of hooves has settled. Only then can you see what you have done. And if it is good.
And what does good mean? It begins with remembering why you started the journey. What was your goal, your inspiration, the problem you wanted to solve? Was it to capture the light on the wall, the feeling in his eyes, the memory of home? In the process, you may have forgotten that objective. Go back to it now and look again.

Or perhaps that spark was just the beginning. You may have gone far afield since then, discovered things you never knew could be, hastily stuffed revelations into your pockets and hurried on down the road. Now is the time to unpack and go back over those discoveries and lessons to see where they led you.

Begin your assessment with a prayer of thanks. Every creative journey has its rewards. It’s never wasted time. Put your disappointments aside and look for your bounty.

And remember to be gentle as you would with that baby peachick, its feathers still wet and grey, still feeble and needing your protection so that with time and handfuls of corn it may yet grow into its glory.

62 thoughts on “How to judge your work”

  1. You were born to be a guru Mr Gregory!There’s so much wisdom and truth in this blogpost. Sometimes I look back and realise that certain pieces of work are much worse than I thought they were at the time (ha!) but mostly when I look I realise that they were much better than I thought. And always they remind me of my creative journey, of where I’ve come from and where I’m going, of the lessons I’ve learned and the progress I’ve made and, most importantly, of the teachers I’ve had, including you. And always, I’m grateful.

    Liked by 12 people

  2. Thank you Danny for your beautiful words. What you wrote is so true. It is easy to condemn and judge too quickly without giving time and distance. Imagine if that peacock, knowing it would be ugly at the initial stage, persuaded itself at that moment that this ugly experience would be forever-it probably would never have hatched. Ideas and drawings never materialize because our minds and thoughts (perhaps emotions) interfere and judge way too quickly squashing the potential hidden beauty that needs to be materialized with time. Beginning with an assessment with a prayer of gratitude is a beautiful reminder to look at ourselves and our creative process as something that is becoming and evolving. It is not the final destination that is beautiful but our journey where we experience struggles and frustrations (tears), growth and fruition that is the important thing. My gratitude extends to you Danny for your words of truth. Thank you

    Liked by 8 people

  3. If only we could remember Danny. I appreciate your efforts most of the time. I don’t when I lose sight of what I am after. The artwork, I like the artwork also.

    Liked by 8 people

  4. So beautifully expressed. Thank you. Do not edit as you work. I repeat this a lot so it is becoming habit, otherwise you lose the flow.

    Liked by 8 people

  5. Thanks, Danny! Great reminders! So easy to snap judgement even before the paint is dry! I always date my work….My old brain tends to forget when I did the sketchbook and by dating it I can see progress. As always you give us food for thought!

    Liked by 8 people

  6. I want to print this out and hang it on my studio wall, so I can remind myself of how true your words ring. -you have such great insight, pointing out what we should know, but somehow we forget. Thank you,Danny, for taking the time to put these thoughts out there. Very helpful.

    Liked by 9 people

  7. Excellent advice, Danny. Every few months I go through my photo archives looking for lost treasures. There is rarely a search where I don’t find one, or several. Nothing changes the raw file as it sits on a disk drive – it’s my perspective that changes.

    Liked by 8 people

  8. Reblogged this on Strands in the Weave of My Thoughts and commented:
    So true. I’ve very often cringed at my own work, only to come back much later on to feel surprisingly good over its insightfulness or its unexpected creativity. Distance is needed to appreciate art, especially one’s own. Don’t churn out your work either. It hinders self discovery — the whole point of art.

    Liked by 6 people

  9. i find this a very truthful discourse. sometimes, we carry too many judgements into everything, but those are often turned like a sword back upon ourselves as well. always be moving forward, and the dust will settle allowing our reflections to be honest. thank you greatly for your sharing these thoughts with everyone.

    Liked by 5 people

  10. This was awesome. It’s like a gentle reminder to go back once in a while to not lose yourself in the process. Well ateast to me anyway

    Liked by 4 people

  11. This was a well written dense post – love the way you looped back around to the tender egg

    And how encouraging this is. So crucial to give space and time for perspective
    Thank you

    Liked by 4 people

  12. “Every creative journey has its rewards. It’s never wasted time. Put your disappointments aside and look for your bounty.” – this has an impact in me. I’m learning several online platforms now and I’m sometimes felling disappointed if I have wasted my time. But what you have just said in your article inspires me that at least “it never is a wasted time.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. “Judgement require distance and perspective”
    Agree. Starting two years ago I redrew, resized, and made 500 cartoons from 1985 to present uniform square frames. It was a lengthy project but when I get ready to publish again I will have much improved work to showcase.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Danny, thank you for sharing this post. It’s really uplifting. I recently started by blog in November and at times I feel that ugly gray ball of fluff. I hope time will give me perspective and gratitude for the journey getting to my purpose!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. What a great piece! This is perfect for my creative writing students when it comes time to revise. May I link to it within an academic, college course shell (also password protected?) I love metacognitive pieces that help reduce students’ anxiety.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Sometimes I’m afraid of judging any creative stuff I did back in the days, as I feel ashamed. How could I even do that? Funny how on the spur of the moment and positive emotions we judge something as good, and after a while completely opposite. Great post!

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Very good article and timely reminder for us to know ” Every creative journey has its rewards. It’s never wasted time”
    “And remember to be gentle as you would with that baby peachick…..” -this is very important as we tend to beat ourselves for the delay in reaching our goals or meeting the set expectations. Thanks!

    Liked by 3 people

  18. I agree, Danny. Some work needs the distance of time to be appreciated. Sometimes it’s something that I didn’t think much of and hardly recognized it as mine. Other times it’s something I thought was hot to trot until I hauled it out and revisited it. Like a short story that was rejected three years ago. I can see now why it didn’t make it and plan to re-work it. Writing is an ongoing journey.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Great Post Danny as the saying goes we are worst critic. My journey is just beginning when it comes to beginning a blog and writing my first book. I started the journey because words matter, stories matter. But as I look through what I write your right I do judge it harshly instead of stepping back. Thank you for your wisdom!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. That’s so beautifully written. Your words pierced through the gloomiest phases of life yet the important ones. Everybody needs to see this!

    Liked by 2 people

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