[Image: Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night”. Fun Fact: Van Gogh sold only 1 painting in his whole life out of 900]

To quote screenwriter William Goldman from his book, Adventures in the Screen Trade:

“Nobody knows anything.”

In this instance, he was referring to his belief that no one in the movie business could actually tell how well a film would do.

We could also apply this to our own art as creatives.

If we take into account the subjectivity of our own work, how then, can we properly evaluate it to make good decisions?

I review movies on the side. I evaluate movies to learn. To apply to my own work. What I’d like to try. What displeases me. What looks like utter shit. But they’re also based on my own personal views of what a good movie is.

Before going to watch a movie I try not to be influenced by information floating about it so I can go in as a blank slate (Sometimes that’s damn impossible if you work on a computer ninety-nine percent of the time). I’ve probably only seen the trailer prior to the screening and I can tell you nine times out of ten, I’m wrong if it becomes successful or if I even like it and vice versa.

This happens to my other co-hosts too. I’m sure it’s happened to you as well.

When I publish a video that I’ve spent weeks editing, I am nervous as hell if it will get any traction. How many “thumbs down” am I going to get? How many comments will I have? Would anybody even care to comment?

Sometimes I’ll show my closest friends first before putting any creative work I’ve done out for public scrutiny. Friends aren’t exactly the greatest for feedback. Most of the time they’ll tell you the things that you want to hear, even if the work is bad. But I’ll show them none-the-less to gauge whether to finally hit that publish button on my YouTube channel.

Or not.

I still remember, during my stint in graphic design class, getting critiqued by my teacher. He would never like any of my work, even if all my classmates did.

“It’s too derivative,” he’d say.

“Fuck you,” would go off in my mind.

Of course what came out of my mouth was more like, “What’s wrong with derivative?”

I’m reminded of an interview with Paul Thomas Anderson (Director of Magnolia and The Master) in which he described a story of when he decided to drop out of film school.

It’s almost the same experience I had in my graphic design class.

So if “nobody knows anything”, what can we do?

For me, I am my own worst critic. And that’s fine. That just means my standards will be higher than anyone that witnesses my work. I am my own barometer.

For me, it’s knowing my work ethic and self-learning and course-correction will move me in a direction that works to my distinctive needs.

For me, it’s learning to trust myself more and to stop being paranoid of other people’s opinions.

For me, it’s realizing other people’s opinions are other people’s OPINIONS.


This post was inspired by Steven Pressfield.
It’s an interesting read if you’re curious.
“Nobody Knows Nothing”

Image: Vincent van Gogh [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons