Monday, August 13, 2012

DMP #3. On Frustration & Failure

In my previous two posts, I’ve suggested an entryway into DMP (digital media production).  
Step 1. Get a taste of fire early on in order to sustain the hard work and to move through failure.
Step 2. Invest in a sustainable network of resources and supportive colleagues.  
Now for Step 3, let’s work on the proper “set.”  In other words, attitude check. 

When we enter the opportunities of new(er) media, it’s easy to track in (unintentionally, of course) some mud from previous work that we don’t really want mucking up the clean surface.  One of the most important muddy-ups involves what happens if we don’t redefine our perceptions of experience.  In the terrain we’re trying to leave behind, our bodies tensed with resistance regarding what we called “frustration” and “failure.” 

In this new space, we will miss our chance if we let that kind of tension and negative affect close us off to potentialities.  It won’t be a new paradigm unless we change.  The nature of learning in a changed paradigm has a different texture and feel; our tendency is to tense up at aliens.  Get over it.

One of our leaders in Game Design, Katie Salen, even says that her school uses the term “iteration” instead of “failure.” Maria Popova’s blog  Brainpickings offers terrific guidance on transformation.  On August 10, she featured 10 rules; for example, Rule #6 “Nothing is a mistake. There's no win and no fail, there's only make.” Also see Popova’s links to previously discussed themes and materials, including “Bertrand Russell’s 10 commandments of teaching, the importance of embracing uncertainty, the pivotal role of work ethic, the intricate osmosis between intuition and intellect, and the crucial habit of being fully awake to everything.”

A similar conversion is needed with frustration.  I’ve learned in my work/play with riding horses that I must breathe into “frustration” and allow it to transform.  Unless and until I stop tensing up at the signals I used to know in a negative sense of being frustrated, we’ll just keep going in circles at the same level of performance until I give up and quit.  I’ve learned that what I used to know as frustration sometimes marks and makes the vital horizon of a new plateau; it’s the nervous energy that recognizes a challenge.  It may take us several iterations before we climb up (and we’ll slip back occasionally), but I have a message for that thing that wants to say, “This is so frustrating!” I say, “No. No. This is OPPORTUNITY. This is what you've been working for.”  Sometimes the message works with a gentle tone; sometimes it takes a kick in the butt.

To adapt to the new paradigm, I often find myself looking for reassurance into William Stafford’s advice.  When persons asked how it is possible to approach the standard he followed of writing a poem every morning, he grinned, “Lower your standards.”  It feels that way, and I believe that in order to compose, especially in the demanding form of digital media where so much is possible, we must be gracious enough to pass through frustration and failure into a transformed way of making meaningful work/play.