Reflections On Self-Reflection- repost

I originally wrote this for the blog I did during my Foundation and BA, published Feb 6, 2018

One of the requirements for my Foundation diploma is keeping a ‘self-reflective journal’. After trying to write in a journal (with a pen!!!!), and failing, I moved onto this blog. It’s much easier for me to type a blogpost than to handwrite anything in a notebook. I don’t even know how to think anymore with a pen in my hand.

I started my first blog in 2001. I’d interviewed Douglas Rushkoff, who was one of my heroes. We really hit it off and kept in touch after the interview. He kept telling me to start a blog and, well, when one of the most important media theorists tells you to start a blog, you kind of have to do it.

My first blog was terrible and I deleted it after a few months. About 6 months later, I started a new one (giagia.co.uk). That one changed my life.

I’d been working in tv for 10 years at that point. Having started broadcasting right when the ‘zoo tv’ style of doing telly was in its infancy- an incredibly creative and daring time in television- I’d seen a huge change in the way television was produced. When I started we were always experimenting, but 10 years on and… it was VERY restrictive. Blogging provided me with a creative outlet. I took it and ran.

It was pretty early days in blogging, so we were making up the rules. We were trying to work out what this whole blogging thing meant, how it could evolve and how it could be used for good. As I had a traditional media background, I started working with a lot of media companies to help them understand how they could use this whole web thing and that lead to me working in the film industry.

It was a lot of fun.

And now I am doing a course that is designed for people younger than I was when I first started working in television. I assume the idea behind the ‘self-reflective journal’ is to get them looking at their work objectively and critically; evaluating what worked and what didn’t work; and how one can learn from that.

I do this self-reflective stuff in the same way as I pump blood around my body- it happens without me thinking of it. I am ALWAYS going over my ideas and my work. If after 27 years working in the creative industries – tv, film, new media, performing arts- I DON’T ‘self-reflect’ then… well… I wouldn’t have been working for so long in the creative industries!

But to be assessed properly, I need to show evidence that I am self-reflecting… So, I’m doing this blog… but, to be honest, I’ve not really been doing a huge amount of self-reflecting here. Most of my posts have just been talking through the processes I’ve gone through to create a piece. That’s not self-reflection. That’s description.

The thing is, for me, after all this time, public self-reflection doesn’t come naturally. When you are working in the creative industries you cannot show any self-doubt. We all know this. If you’ve ever been to any kind of meeting with people who work in tv, film, marketing, new media, it’s ALWAYS positive. We don’t criticise each other really. Everything is ‘yes, and…’ because we all know that everyone else is actually beating themselves up all the time. The rest of us don’t need to join in…

You’ve had a programme cancelled after 2 years/3 series/4 episodes? It’s brilliant because you now have the opportunity to move on to other things. Your film didn’t have a great opening weekend? The critics LOVED it. The critics hated your film? Audiences LOVE it. You had a bad opening weekend AND the critics panned it? It was a brilliant experience and the director/producer/actors had a profound influence on your craft.

But at home, on your own, you dissect every single thing you did and thought to see if there was anything you could do that was better, that could have helped the programme or film succeed. You know what you did really well. You can also find the faults in everything you did- you learn from them, you grow- and you know you can improve… but you NEVER can talk about it publicly. And after 27 years of doing this, I know my strengths, I know my weaknesses…

And now I’m expected to write about my art.

Art for me comes with a HUGE amount of baggage. Without airing my dirty laundry, I never had any kind of encouragement- and often had flat out discouragement- from people closest to me when it came to my art. Very early on I just *knew* that I was rubbish at it and had no ‘talent’, no style, no taste, no nothing. This is what I was told, sometimes flat out, by people who I trusted, cared for and loved. It clearly wasn’t for me, so I never pursued it. And that hurt. Even just deciding to pick up a pencil and draw, as I did for the first time just under a year ago, was a hugely difficult thing for me.

Consequently, most of my “self-reflection” about my art is incredibly negative. All I see are the flaws. I’m terrible at it, remember? Just awful. All I try to do is improve.

Ideas? Oh. Yea. I know I have great ideas. No one ever drilled it into me that I couldn’t do ideas. I know I can write, too. I’m not an amazing writer like many of my friends, but I’m not bad (aside: I wrote a ‘final letter’ to one of my partners after the worst break-up there’s ever been in the universe. I poured my heart out. His response was “that was very well written”.). I can take pretty good photos- I’m better at taking photos of ’stuff’ rather than people. I can present tv programmes well- certain genres better than others. I’m not bad at interviewing people- I’m best at talking to tech people/nerds for some reason; not great interviewing sports people. I’ve also got a excellent fashion sense- talk to me about shoes sometime. I’ll bore you. You know Neo in the subway at the end of The Matrix? That’s me with the web… Ladidadida… But art? It’s TERRIFYING for me.

So, I will try to be more self-reflective… but if you just read everything I write with the understanding that I see everything and more that is wrong with it; that every day all I am trying to do is improve; and that one day I might just think something I’ve done is awesome.

Anyway… this is what I’ve been working on this week: I’ve been trying to learn how to sew – with a machine- on paper, specifically pages of books. I’ve worked it out. My self-reflection? It’s awesome and I’m awesome for working it out.