Talk With Yourself

Alignment XV

When was the last time you wished you had someone to listen to you? When was the last time you listened to yourself? We all want to be heard. Don’t wait for someone else to come along, do what only you can do for you. Listen – carefully.

Turn Your Inner Monolog Into A Dialog

Go ahead, talk to yourself. Don’t worry, it’s not crazy. We all do it. Don’t think so? Try not to do it. Monks spend years developing the ability to empty their minds so they can be here now instead of imagining what did, could have, or might happen.

We see things, we hear things, we feel things, we do things, we react, and all the while we interpret what we’re experiencing if we’re not stuck in our past or planning a future. That’s part of creating our story, the essential narrative we shape from too many facts.

We all have a running commentary provided by our minds and tuning into how it goes and flows can be very useful.

Speaking your mind can help you become clearer about what’s on it. Where did that come from? Pay closer attention to find out. Broken record? Skip a track. It’s your choice, whether you decide to speak your mind silently in your head or speak your mind out loud, either alone or in the presence of others under the right circumstances. No one ever has to know how much you talk to yourself; they rarely know how much they talk to themselves. Most of the time, we’ve become so accustomed to the familiar voices inside of us that we’re often unaware of what’s being said and who’s saying it. It seems natural to us. That’s just the way it is. But, in reality, that’s the way we are. If we actively listen to ourselves, we become more self-aware and realize we have many more choices available to us.

Be More Creative By Changing The Voices You Use

Do you ever get tired of the sound of your own voice? Same old same old? Try another. People often talk about how helpful it can be to hear another’s perspective, but they don’t talk often enough about how you can get other perspectives from yourself.

We all have many different voices within us – aspects of ourselves that can be seen as being distinct from one another – an optimist, a realist, a pessimist, an inner critic, a cheerleader – they all set different tones and offer different perspectives, which can be very useful when you’re looking for better ways to do things or ways to get more out of your life, with and without art Expand your mental wardrobe. You can wear many hats. Imagine your inner voice speaking to you at different ages – your inner child, your adult, your elder. Try on a few Jungian archetypes – a child, a lover, a parent, a warrior, a dreamer, a scientist, etc.

We can make the life of our inner community richer and more dynamic by encouraging these separate voices to speak in turn and even to speak to each other. Over time we may even discover that each voice has a consistent set of concerns and skills and knowing this can help us decide which voice to call on in a given situation. This is a more personal version of the very useful question, “What would (Add the name of a person with a potentially useful perspective.) do ?”

When you’re working with your personal advisory council, it can be helpful to put a neutral moderator in charge of conversations. His or her job is simply to listen and observe non-judgmentally and to make sure everyone is heard. At times your moderator may direct specific questions or make a motion to table one issue and move on to other subjects. Later, you can weigh the evidence, draw conclusions, and make decisions about what you’d like to do or not do.

This imaginative exploration can be extremely useful. We not only come to better understand ourselves, we also come in contact with vast sources of information and understanding that we often leave untapped. The best thing about listening to ourselves is that we come to realize we have many more perspectives to draw from and options to choose from than we had previously imagined.

Is your self-talk good talk? Is it useful? If not, change it. It’s your talk. While you’re at it ask “How many ways can talking to myself be useful?” Your imagination can offer you unlimited possibilities and the only thing limiting you is giving yourself permission to explore them.

So go ahead. Talk with yourselves. You’re sure to find surprises, delights, and many interesting perspectives.

Read more in my Writing Resources.
Learn more in my Creativity Workshops.

What’s Your Creative Process? 1 Habit That Will Change Your Life

Alignment IV

Do this one thing and you will transform your creative life.

Watch your process.

If you make this a habit, you’ll develop a better understanding of not only what but also where, when, how, and why do the things you do.

Noting what you don’t do can be an equally powerful practice.

You’ll quickly find yourself flooded with new information and ideas, which you can turn into a creative advantage by taking notes.

When you notice what when where how you do the things you do, after every observation ask, “Why?” Don’t think of the question as a challenge but rather as an opportunity to gain greater clarity about your motivations and what does and doesn’t drive you to action.

First, note what you do and don’t do.

When you watch your process carefully you become aware of every step in your process and everything involved in it. Actions and things that went unnoticed before will become clear to you. Find out if your habits are serving you well by doing what you do in a different order or by adding or subtracting one thing systematically. Make a little time to observe your process like a scientist might and find out what positive benefits that perspective has to offer you.

Second, note where you do and don’t do it.

Do you like quiet places to work without distractions or do you prefer a lot of external stimulation to get your juices flowing? Do you like clean orderly spaces to foster calm efficiency or do you like to spread out and use chaos creatively? Do you need a space away from home or work or do the other people and activities that take place there feed your creativity? Maybe your answer will change depending on a given project or a particular stage of any project you’re in. If you don’t know, mix it up and find out.

Third, note when you do and don’t do it.

Are you a morning person or an evening person? Are there times of the day you find it easier to be creative because you have fewer commitments? Do you work in bursts or do you prefer to do a little bit at a time? Do some things require bigger blocks of time to do? Can some other things be done in smaller chunks of time? Answering these questions will help you make the most of the time you have as well as plan to make the time you need.

Fourth, note how you do it and don’t do it.

It’s likely that you have a choice to do the same thing in many different ways. You may be used to doing things in certain ways, without realizing it. Maybe you’ve made a few assumptions based on what other people do. Are those assumptions helping you? Maybe you’ve developed habits. Which good habits help you get consistent results efficiently? Which bad habits prevent you from getting the results you want? Are you taking shortcuts? Sometimes what works in one situation doesn’t work in another. Do your habits serve or hinder you when things change? Take stock of your habits and you’ll find areas for improvement but don’t forget to give yourself credit for everything you do that works well along the way. You’ve worked long and hard, you deserve it. Keep going.

Fifth, ask why you do what you do.

Behind every action, there’s a goal. You eat, drink, breathe, sleep to stay alive. You photograph to … ? Your most basic motivations may be fairly simple. Some of your other motivations may be much more complex – and it’s likely you do many things for unconsciously for reasons that your conscious mind has a lot to learn about. Realizing this can often be the key to finding out what is most authentic about and fulfilling in your creative life. If you really want to get to the core motivations behind the things you do it can be helpful to ask “Why?” five times in a row. Ask the first question. Then ask “Why?” Respond to that answer with “Why?” and repeat this a few more times. Often our deepest motivations don’t reveal themselves until the third, fourth, or fifth time you ask “Why?” If you find asking “Why?” is getting in the way of your observations while you’re practicing your process, ask it when you’ve finished and while you’re reviewing your notes.

Watch your process. It seems simple. It is. But like meditation, it’s not easy. We quickly fall back into our habits, which is exactly what we’re trying to notice more carefully – and potentially change (whether a little or a lot or sometimes or always).

There are many more benefits to taking notes about your process. Because I write …

I constantly generate new ideas.
I’m rarely blocked.
I’m more productive.
I’ve streamlined my systems.
My technique is better.
I recognize the ideas and practices I’ve inherited from others.
I’m aware of what’s influencing me, when, for how long, and why.
I’m clearer about what works and what doesn’t, for me.
I’m aware of my self-talk.
I’ve identified my goals.
I understand more about the personal reasons behind the things I do and the ways I do them.
My work has more purpose.
I enjoy my process more.

I find I write the same things down time and time again. This has lead me to create a master process list, which I can add to or subtract. (I keep it in the Notes app on my iPhone. I make a lot of notes there about a lot of different things.) Because I’m so curious I rarely get bored. I find there are always new things to observe. Are there new things because I noticed more? Why? Are there new things because I’m in a new environment? Why? Are there new things because I decided to try something new? Why? Are there new things because I’m more emotionally receptive? Why? These are important questions that can unlock new ways of looking, thinking, and working, now and in the future. Keep asking them. Ask a lot of questions!

Watching your process is really a matter of becoming aware of your choices (what you choose to do and not to do) and what you may have missed. With greater awareness, you can choose to do the same things or make other choices. With more choices available to you, you can make better choices. Better according to who? You! Be mindful of your creative process. Make this a habit and you’ll transform your life.

I could write a book about the many benefits watching your process brings. But don’t take my word for it. Try it!

Read my Mindfulness resources here.
Read more in my Writing Resources.
Learn more in my Creativity Workshops.

Turn Your Inner Critic Into An Ally

Your inner critic can be a terrible adversary or a powerful ally. Which one it becomes depends on how you relate to and use it. Like any animal, proper care and feeding can work wonders while neglect and abuse can produce monstrous results.

The inner critic’s powers of analysis and forethought are truly exceptional. Your inner critic is a protective mechanism. Its job is to help you avoid potential dangers. It’s excellent at identifying weaknesses or shortcomings that if left uncorrected and allowed to continue unchecked may have adverse effects. It can quickly identify potential areas for improvement. It can provide all sorts of extremely valuable feedback.
But, the inner critic has its limitations. The inner critic speaks from a point of fear. It motivates with fear too. It’s a pessimist. It’s often accurate, but never infallible. Because of this, it isn’t good at being supportive but instead may create doubt and insecurity. Its criticism may not be constructive if its feedback isn’t placed in a useful context. If it goes too far astray, its effects can produce negative results and even lead to paralysis.
So how can you turn this powerful voice from enemy into ally?

First, consider the inner critic a trusted ally – one with limitations. Whenever you hear the voice of the inner critic, ask if what it has to offer is helpful. If it is, use its feedback to improve your results. If it’s not, calmly acknowledge it, tell it you value it as an ally both in the past and in the future, and clearly state the reason(s) you’ve decided to make the choice you’re making. Tell it you will continue to consult with it in the future.  Your inner critic will believe you if you make a regular habit of consulting it – and even respect you for doing it. You might even give your inner critic an alternate project to work on in the background while you’re busy with other things. Stay calm; your inner critic can feed on negative emotions. Once you’ve made your decision, be firm. Remember, like a child having a tantrum, there may be times it needs to be silenced. But don’t silence it for too long. Many of the things it has to say can be extremely useful if you remember its strengths and limitations.

Read more in my Creativity Resources.
Learn more in my Creativity Workshops.

Coach Yourself

A voice inside my head was grousing, “There’s nothing here. It’s not good enough. You’re not good enough. Someone else has done this before. You’ve done this before. You’re uncomfortable. You’ll have better luck next time.” I’d heard it all before. So I changed my inner dialog, “There’s something here; you just have to find it. You know how much you like the surprise when you do. You have a unique sensibility. You’ll bring something new to the situation. You can do it. It will be great. You’re enjoying this.” If I hadn’t shifted the tone of my self-talk I would have given up before I got started, instead, I stuck with it, for hours, and succeeded, many times. Refraction LX was just one of that morning’s successes.

You’ve heard it all before too. “You’re just like … you always … you never … you’ll never … why try …” As Carla Gordon said, “If someone in your life talked to you the way you talk to yourself, you would have left them long ago.” We’re told that to improve and reach our full potential that we have to be our own worst critics. It’s true that there is a time and a place for this – but it’s limited. Don’t make it a full-time occupation. If you do, you may never get where you need or want to go.

Professional athletes and performing artists have coaches and directors who not only train them but also encourage and inspire them as well. So do many CEOs and salesmen. So do many people from many walks of life at different times in their lives and stages in their careers. They may even engage different types of coaches at different times for different needs. When was the last time someone coached you? When was the last time you coached yourself?  Even if you’re lucky enough to find the right creative coach who can help guide you to perfect practice, they can’t do all the work for you; you have to do the work too; after all, in the end, they’re training you to do it yourself. You can’t afford to wait and find your perfect creative coach. Instead, become that person.

Energize yourself. Affirm your abilities. Take note of your previous accomplishments. Set tangible goals for the future. Chart your progress along the way. Provide yourself incentives. Reward yourself. Celebrate your accomplishments – both verbally and visually, privately and publicly. Be specific using precise language. Give yourself pep talks. Frequently use positive affirmations. Don’t think you can do it? Tell yourself you can. And then do it. Watch your self-talk – and change it for the better. It’s a mindset. If you want better results create a better mindset.

When you talk about yourself or your work, do you use positive or negative words? The words we use can be very revealing about our orientations, attitudes, and beliefs. Many times, when we speak about ourselves, if we speak about ourselves, we downplay our abilities and accomplishments. It’s true that no one likes a raving egomaniac. But, there’s a real difference between arrogance and confidence. Confidence is attractive and inspiring; arrogance isn’t; neither is insecurity. Don’t let your insecurities get the best of you. Be careful not to talk yourself down, cut yourself off short, or fall completely silent. Instead, learn to speak simply and directly about yourself and your work and above all share your enthusiasm. Not feeling it? Act as if you do. With just a little practice you will begin to feel it. It’s true we should all beware of overconfidence. And, critical feedback, the right kind and the right amount, is useful for improving performance too. Peak performance and growth take the right balance of positive and negative feedback. But ask yourself, “How balanced are you?” If you’re like most people, you’re not very balanced at all. Change this and you’ll tip the scales in your favor. This takes constant monitoring and recalibration but you’ll soon see substantial changes that make it not just worthwhile but invaluable.

How important is this? Consider how much money is spent every year on motivational resources like books, videos, lectures, workshops, and more. The figures are enormous. That’s how important it is to other people. Ask yourself, “What’s the price of not doing it?” That’s far greater. Don’t pay it. Just do it.

Questions

What is the state of your current self-talk?
How many ways can you improve your self-talk?
How many ways can you make your self-talk more energized?
How many ways can you make your self-talk more meaningful?
How many ways can you measure the results of improved self-talk?

Read more in my Creativity Resources.
Learn more in my Creativity Workshops.

How To Title Your Images

Neko Harbor, Antarctica, 2007

Watch how the focus shifts when these alternate titles are used.

Freezing Point, Glacial Retreat, Blue, Constellation

 

When in doubt, when selecting titles for your images keep them simple and neutral. Less is more, more or less.

Good titles complement works by giving viewers more relevant information that makes their experience richer, indicating its creator’s relationship towards a subject and medium and audience, suggesting but not limiting attention to dimensions of a work that might otherwise remain overlooked, all the while leaving room for viewer’s extended interpretation.

Bad titles dominate or subvert works by attempting to make up for what’s missing, focus attention on one aspect of work and deflect attention from others, add heavy-handed interpretation leaving less room for viewer participation, or tell viewers rather than show them.

To avoid bad titles, rather than becoming a master of language, keep it simple. While there are notable examples where this maxim has been defied with success ­– singer/songwriter Fiona Apple titled one of her albums with a complete poem containing over four hundred characters causing a buzz-worthy stir which reinforced her reputation for being both poetic and eccentric ­– at a minimum, it takes a significant flair for style or even genius to pull a stunt like this off.

You might be tempted to keep it really simple. Remember, Untitled is still a title. It’s the most neutral to the point of being nondescript and almost uninformative. Sometimes it works – well. Many times, it’s not enough. But eliminating it altogether and simply stating the medium used is almost always never enough.

In a majority of cases, just a little more will do just fine. The classic convention for titling an image is to identify the subject (name the person, place or thing) and add the date of creation: if it’s a photograph use the date of exposure; if it’s a painting use the date of completion; if it’s a composite photograph default to the latter; if it’s an image of a historic event add the date of the event in the first part of the title and add the date of completion of the image.

It’s the times when this convention doesn’t fit that more creativity is warranted.

Use this list as a springboard for exploring your options.

1     List the subject and date – Neko Harbor, Antarctica, 2007.
2     State a relationship to the subject, yours or someone else’s; i.e. My Mother or Her Home.
3     Use a general category for the subject rather than an individual one, such as Statistic.
4     Name a formal element in the work – number, shape, color, size, etc.
5     Refer to another medium, such as poetic or musical form.
6     Loosely interpret the subject; similes and metaphors often work well here, such as Smells Like Teen Spirit.
7     Use a technical term, related to the subject or the creation of the work, Ascent or Descent for example.
8     State what the subject is not – Is Not Untitled.
9      Create a contradiction ­– think of Magritte’s famous painting of a pipe entitled This Is Not A Pipe.

You’ll no doubt find ways to expand this list.

It’s interesting to note that when you keep it simple and conventional, specificity works in your favor, yet the more creative and unconventional you get the more ambiguity, sometimes coupled with a dose of irony or contradiction, works in your favor
You may hit upon one ingenious title. If you should be so lucky quickly ask yourself, “Can you repeat it?” One genius title amid a cluster of duds will stand out like a sore thumb. Bodies of work beg some consistency. That said, you may find that varying your titling conventions between different projects is an effective way to further differentiate them.

Consider creating a standard for your titles, after giving considerable thought to both its short and long-term effects on the way audiences will respond to you work. There are many benefits to creating a consistent practice, including the creation and fulfillment of expectations and the reduction of the time and energy you put into resolving new terms. This will also call more attention to the times when you deviate from your standards, which can be advantageous if used strategically.

Like your art, titles are all about communication. Titles become a part of your art. Make sure your titles make a contribution to effectively communicating what you want to communicate. It’s worth the time you invest to put some thought into how you title your work.

How do you title your work?

 

Read How I Title My Images.
Read more about how writing can help stimulate your creativity.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

How I Title My Images

Illumination I, 2000 

 

Titles have always been challenging for me. While I always use a working title for a developing series, often, I don’t know what to title the works until I truly understand them – and that can be long after they’ve been created. Sometimes I change the titles of a few of my images after I’ve released them.

Most of my images, being a combination of at least two images from different times and places, don’t fit the typical place date format. To date, I’ve only used this type of title for one series, Antarctica, because I want that work to be seen as more editorial in nature.

Because I want to leave plenty of room for the viewer, I avoid titles that impose a single interpretation on a work of art – Exhibit A : Evidence Of My Failed Relationships. I also don’t want a title to make up for what’s not already strongly felt in an image –Unimaginable Grace.

Initially, I grouped work according to the dominant natural element in it, using a set of six series, interlocking because many images can fit into more than one series, under one larger title – Elemental: Dreaming In Stone; Waterway; Fire Within; Aerial Boundaries; Songs From Wood; and Animalia.

Later, I came to understand there was a further reason I didn’t use standard place/date titles. I want my images to be seen not as records of things (a materialistic viewpoint) but as traces of processes (a wholistic viewpoint).

I’d like to use an active verb for my titles, but the image isn’t the active process itself, it’s some thing made from observing processes. So instead of the word Illuminating, I use the word Illumination.

I use a number to indicate the order of creation in a series.

The date attributed is the date of release, not the date of exposure.

Read How To Title Your Images here.
Read more about how writing can boost your creativity.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Sarah Kay On The Power Of Spoken Words

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“If I should have a daughter, instead of Mom, she’s gonna call me Point B … ” began spoken word poet Sarah Kay, in a talk that inspired two standing ovations at TED2011. She tells the story of her metamorphosis — from a wide-eyed teenager soaking in verse at New York’s Bowery Poetry Club to a teacher connecting kids with the power of self-expression through Project V.O.I.C.E. — and gives two breathtaking performances of “B” and “Hiroshima.” Sarah is also the host of TED’s podcast “Sincerely, X.”

How To Use Words Improve Your Creativity

 

Use Your Words

 

Watch Your Process 
It’ll change your life.

Take Notes 
See, remember, and produce more.

Talk With Yourself 
Don’t worry, it’s not crazy. We all do it.

Listen To Yourself 
The words you use reveal a lot.

Turn Your Inner Critic Into An Ally 
Your inner critic can be a terrible adversary or a powerful ally.

Coach Yourself
Energize yourself. Affirm your abilities. Set tangible goals.

Avoid Should
Instead ask, “What happens when I?”

 

Discover & Develop Your Story

 

Every Picture Tells A Story Free to Members
Every picture tells a story.

Discover Subjects With Nouns 
Make a list to identify more subjects and more about your potential subjects.

Discover Actions With Verbs
Make a list to find out more about what’s going on around you.

Discover Qualities With Adverbs And Adjectives
Make a list to find how you really feel about your subjects and put that into your images.

Seeing With New Eyes
Ask these questions to uncover new perspectives and ideas.

Strike Up A Lively Conversation With Your Images With These Questions | Coming
Find out more about your images and your reactions to them. Talk with them.

Guiding Questions | Coming
Generate ideas and guide your work with these essential questions.

Ask 100 Questions | Coming
This exercise is sure to stretch you, reveal personal perspectives, and generate new ideas.

Free Associate To Find Feelings, Thoughts, Memories, Connections
Identify the things happening outside you and take time to explore what’s going on inside.

Association
Learn how to deepen your relationships with your work.

Content, Form, Feeling
What kind of story are you telling?

Metaphor
Use metaphor to guide you deeper into a subject.

 

Clarify Your Vision & Style

 

The Differences Between Vision & Style 
Vision is what you have to say; style is how you say it.

What’s Your Vision ? | Coming

What’s Your Style ? Free To Members
Identify the basic visual elements in your work.

What’s Your Subject? | Coming

What’s Your Theme ? | Coming

Motivation – Dig Deep – Ask Why Five Times | Coming

Make Plans  Free to Members
Increase your productivity and fulfillment by making a plan.

Define a Project  Free to Members
Focus your creative efforts and create an action list to achieve your goals.

Developing Personal Projects 
Defining a project is one of the single best ways to develop your body of work.

Clarify Your Mission, Goals, Projects, Actions

Make Your Bucket List 

 

Tell It Your Way

 

The Way You Tell Your Story Is Part Of Your Style | Coming

3 Ways To Tell A Story More Creatively – It, I, You
Tell the story of your subject. Actually, tell three stories.

Most Stories Have A Beginning, Middle & End | Coming

Explore Different Story Structures | Coming

The Hero’s Journey | Coming

7 Essential Plots | Coming

 

Share Your Story

 

Why Sharing Your Story Is Important | Coming

How To Ask For Useful Feedback

How To Title Your Images

How I Title My Images 

Artist’s Statements  Free to Members

Tell Us About It In One Sentence, One Phrase, One Word | Coming

Loglines – Identify The Function Of Individual Images In Sequences| Coming

Core Stories  | Coming

Elevator Pitches  | Coming

Bylines, Bios, & CVs  | Coming

 

 

Play With Words

 

Breaking the Rules  Free to Members

Creative Fear List 

If You Were A …  | Coming

It’s Kind Of A Cross Between …  | Coming

What If … | Coming

Write A Story In One Sentence | Coming

Write A Three Line Poem | Coming

Magnetic Poetry | Coming

 

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11 Ways To Give And Get Useful Feedback

Suffusion VI
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Ask For It
Do you want more than polite conversation when you share your images? Ask for the kind of feedback you’re looking for. When you share images without a request for feedback, the number of responses you get goes down, and the content changes. Without an invitation, people often feel hesitant to share their responses. If they do, they may not know how far to go and end up not going as far as you’d like them to. So, if you’re looking for feedback when you share your work — ask for it. Often, you’ll find people are happy to share more of their opinions with you.
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Be More Specific
The way you ask for feedback can make a big difference in the kind of responses you get and how useful they are. If you don’t make a specific request, the responses you get will be general and unfocused. Conversely, you can qualify the type of feedback you’re giving someone. State your approach before giving your feedback.
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Ways To Give Feedback
There are as many ways to direct the kind of feedback you get as there are ways to give feedback. Here’s a list of eleven different kinds of feedback and ways to ask for it. You can ask the questions of either single images or groups of images. (You can even use this list to easily copy and paste questions when you post images online. Or make your own.)
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1     Numerical Ratings
Ask, “Please rate this image on a scale of 1-5 (1 is low and 5 is high).”
Optionally, you can ask for numerical ratings on a particular element.
Ask, “On a scale of 1 to 5, how strong is the ___ in this image?”
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2     Relative Ranking
Ask, “Please rank these images from strongest (1) to weakest (highest number).”
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3     Core Strengths
Ask, “What’s the best thing about this image?”
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4     Strengths & WeaknessesSeparate them.
Ask, “What are the strong points of this image?”
Ask, “What are the weak points of this work?”
Or combine them.
Ask, “What are the strengths and weaknesses of these images?”
(It’s SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) simplified.)
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5     Improvements
Ask, “What would you do to improve this image?”
Or, ask, “What would you do to improve future images like this one?”
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6     Content / Form / Feeling
Ask, “Please rate the strength of these images in these three categories (on a scale of 1-5); content, form, and feeling.”
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7     Identify Themes
Ask, “Please identify any themes you see in these images.”
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8     Free Associate
Ask, “When you see this image, what do you think of? Please free-associate!”
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9     Feeling
Ask, “What emotions do you feel when you look at this image? Don’t hold back!”
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10     Uses
Ask, “Please identify possible uses for these images.”
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11     Questions
Ask, “Please list any and all questions you can think of when you look at these images.”
This is just a start. There are many other ways to give and solicit feedback. Make your own list. Use anything from this list, whenever and wherever you please.
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Being more specific will greatly increase the value of the feedback you ask for, get, and give.
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Feedback Is Valuable
Major corporations spend thousands, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars to get user feedback on their products. They spend a lot of time refining the questions they ask before they seek feedback. They know that doing this will make the results they get much more meaningful and valuable. You can get free feedback on your social networks. Imagine if that feedback was not only supportive but also helpful?
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Giving Feedback Is A Skill That Can Be Learned
Giving feedback on images is not something that seems easy for many people. For some reason, it seems much easier to give written feedback on something that’s been written. We were taught how to comment on texts in school; it’s a skillset we’ve learned and practiced. Unless you were an art history or a communications major, the chances are high that you weren’t taught how to comment on images; this too is a skill set that can be learned and practiced. (Terry Barrett’s Criticizing Photographs is a good resource.)
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Critical or Useful
Sooner or later, we all face the same question, “How do we give useful feedback that is constructive without being negative?” We’ve all learned that criticism can be constructive, but it’s very hard to give it well. Tough love often gets so tough you can’t feel the love any more. Breaking spirits isn’t useful; helping them grow stronger is. There is an art to giving feedback, one we can all learn and practice. It’s quite likely that if we do this, we’ll become better people and make the world a better place.
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The new field of appreciative inquiry has a great deal to offer here. (For a quick primer, read Appreciative Inquiry by David L Cooperrider.) Psychologists use it. Negotiators use it. Businesses use it. We can too. Giving good feedback starts with a good attitude. Start with what’s best about something — instead of what’s worst. This is a totally different attitude than asking “Is it good?”, which is much too general. (Good relative to what? How good? Good in what ways?) Instead try asking, “What’s the best thing about this?” After identifying core strengths, and only after, move to how something can be made even better.
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Give Yourself Feedback
Self-talk is really important. What kind of feedback do you give yourself? How often? Is it helpful? You can use all of these techniques for yourself. You don’t have to wait for or be limited by others.
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Feedback is valuable. So … Invite it. Guide it. Receive it. Give it.
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