Monday, February 23, 2009

Phoning It In

Concentration, from the Game Series, ©2009 Jeane Vogel Photography, Infrared Photograph

Everyone body does it once in a while: phones it in. Creation become mundane. Even work we love can become boring. Maybe I'm feeling sick. Maybe I'm feeling bored. Maybe I'm burnt out. Maybe I'm resentful of the work the client wants.

Maybe I'm just lazy.

I know that sounds harsh, but let's call it what it is. It hits all of us once in a while. We let it slide. It's good enough. We hope it doesn't show.

Of course it shows. All of us are judged by work. Our most recent work. There's truth in the old saying that we're only as good as our last effort. The old stuff might be great, the new stuff is lackluster, but nobody will notice because we're successful or well-known or ... whatever.

I recently read an interview that drove this point home to me. A local reporter, long relieved of duties by layoffs, produced a freelance piece for a small paper. I know this person and the writer is competent. The article I read was not. The questions were common, the writing was lazy. The reporter phoned it in. It was good enough. When I thought about it, I realized that everything I've read by this writer lately has been far below what we used to except. Maybe the writer thought no body will notice.

I think lots of people notice.

As soon as the thought "it's good enough" pops into my head, I know I have to resist the temptation to believe it. As soon as I realized I'm "phoning it in," I know it's time to look at why.

Why is it "just good enough?"

Is the concept not good enough? Start over.

Is the client not paying enough? Learn from that and restructure the pricing -- next time.

Do I think I'm not talented enough to deliver the work I imagined or promised? Try it again. "I can't" generally means "This us too hard. I don't want to try."

Am I bored? Too bad. Do it anyway.

We all can't be the best, but there's no excuse for laziness. There's no excuse for phoning it in.