Thursday, February 22, 2018

Unconscious Competence -- The Invisible Man

I've been thinking about this quite a lot lately. I was thinking of writing a short story (an ironic endeavor, given the intended subject matter)....I'm not exactly sure how to do it...maybe it will come to me and I'll blog it.

Anyway, the idea of the story would be the progression of a successful piece evolving from a total awareness of the artist to a total unawareness of the artist.

What got me thinking about it is that there is this sort of uncomfortable stage in a creative person's life when they realize that the reason they are being complimented on their work is not because the work is successful, but rather, because the effort they are putting into the work is so evident. Everyone wants to be encouraging and praise them for it. Like parents do with their children. "Oh, that's BEAUTIFUL, honey!"

There's a stage of learning -- of incompetence -- where the effort is at least as evident as the intended goal.

People want to be encouraging to creative people. We will find something worthy of complimenting in even the most abject beginner's work. And even in this age wherein ideologies and beliefs are defined in the negative by our professional ridiculers, most people will still avoid being cruel to those who are making sincere attempts in the creative world.

But there are any number of creative endeavors in which it suddenly dawns on the creative person that they either suck because nobody compliments them on their work....or -- and this is the long-awaited punchline -- nobody compliments them on their work because they have arrived at the level of expected competence. That is, we don't compliment experts doing what experts do. We expect it.

Looked at from another angle -- It seems as though really competent creative people recede as their work advances. As the work nears perfection, the person behind the work nears invisibility. Transparency.

I know.  I just set up the scenario in which you fellow potters are suddenly set to second-guessing upon receipt of a compliment. "I just got complimented.  Does that mean I suck?"

I don't think it exactly works that way.  In fact, the point I'm trying to make is quite opposite of that.  What I'm trying (unsuccessfully) to convey is that there is a level of competence achieved wherein the absence of praise is actually a confirmation of success -- especially as your peers count you among their number.


  1. I don't comment when you post pics of your pots, John .... I 'like' ... a lot.

  2. takes a breath,feeling,that's right....goes back to read're spot on!
    You write so well..and make marvellous work