There are no two words in the English language more harmful than "good job". Last night, the close friends and I gathered together for our weekly pizza ritual and a movie. On this particular night, I convinced everyone that we should watch the movie Whiplash. It was nominated for a few Oscars and I think J.K. Simmons won for best supporting actor. After seeing the movie, I know why.
It isn't an easy movie to watch. For a movie about someone wanting to be a better drummer, it feels more like a movie where the fate of the world is on the line. I've heard a lot of movies described as breathless. This one sits high on that pedestal along with Gravity and Prisoners and just a few others that I've ever seen.
And again, it's a movie about a guy wanting to be better at drums. Which is a reductionist way of describing it, sure, but that's the main story point.
So the movie got me thinking, as the good movies do. I thought I'd lay my thoughts out in no particular order and see how they land. Sound like fun? Great.
What Motivates You?
There were probably about a hundred different points in the movie where I wanted to shout "why are you continuing to do this? Why is this so important to you?" I don't want to give away the best parts of the movie, so you'll have to see why I wanted to shout that, but it's an important question to turn in towards ourselves. What drives us? If we wanted something, could anything stand in our way?
The Stakes! The Stakes!
Like I said, this is a movie about a jazz drummer with a particularly unpleasant conductor, but the whole time, it felt like I was watching a movie about someone needing desperately to save the world from certain destruction.
How can I ratchet up the stakes in what I'm writing to match this feeling?
A random thought, but I don't know if Miles Teller can actually drum, but he can sure act like he can drum. I'm not a drummer myself, but never once did I watch the movie and think that they were faking it.
The quote that opened this post is likely the most quotable from the movie and it raises an interesting point. Do we harm with our encouragement? Can we coddle too much? I don't know if I necessarily think so, but it's an interesting consideration.
And that's about all I have to save on the subject, it seems. It's a good movie. You should see it.
More importantly, you should think about what drives you. If you're a creator, think about how to raise the stakes in whatever project you're working on.
And from the looks of it, don't try to be a drummer.