Doer vs Reviewer

The argument of writer vs reader produced additional reflection.

Both George F. and Phil H. suggested activities which prompted me to analyze the concept in greater detail.

Here are some additional thoughts:

We are of two minds:
1) one, in the moment and reactive,
2) a second, out of the moment and reflective.

Consider any competitive game, sport or activity. While you are engaged in a game of chess (George F.) or skiing down a mountain, serving a tennis ball or swinging a baseball bat your mind is focused on the moment and the skills you employ are those immediately available.

It is only after you complete your pursuit can you review your results.

• I used to coach girls’ softball. I had one player who would close her eyes while she swung the bat. She denied this, of course, but when shown a video of her swing, was stunned. “How can I see the ball if I… Oh!”

• During my time learning the game of golf I had the neophyte tendency to lift my head, just a tad, causing the club to repeatedly “skull” the ball. I had no idea why I kept topping my strikes until my teacher forcefully held my head down.

In performing arts, one can practice the dance, tweak the notes, stop and repeat offline (Phil H.). But once on stage, you have but the one chance to get it right. Your mind is hot and body hotter, applying your training, such as it is.

Later, during analysis through critics, recordings or video, you might discovery errors in performance.

Fixes on the fly? Well, that’s the goal.

As beginners, while “doing”, we are incapable of “analyzing”. Only when we can sit back and review can we determine our flaws and failures.

In performance art, competitive activity, or focused application our behavior is immediate and reactive. Post action we can evaluate and analyze, applying a methodical and deliberate critique of our active endeavor.

The two minds act separately, at first. I believe that as we gain mastery, we teach ourselves to be both participant and observer. The coercion of these two minds into one is, once again, evidence of a master. To analyze and correct yourself, while you act? That’s one helluva trick.

Writing is unique in this regard.  We can run amuck, running riot with words, casting errors and faux pas like confetti—first drafts are garbage. But then we can sit on our work for days, weeks or years returning to polish, at will, until our editor’s mind is satisfied.

Imagine a concert where the guitarist twangs a sour note, stops the presentation and goes, “Hold on, let me try that again.”

The melding of our two minds will not be enough, however. Our critical self must continuously elevate our notions of quality. It becomes a never ending game of catch-up, our doer ever chasing our reviewer.



22 thoughts on “Doer vs Reviewer

  1. The athletes you describe are so good at what they do precisely because their minds are not divided (eg. Zen & The Art of Archery). I might point out that writing about writing only further compounds this false view that lies at the heart of all human conflict…but that would open me up to reminders that I spend a good deal of time thinking about thinking, which is the very same acceptance of duality as reality.

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    1. What did Socrates say? “The unexamined life is not worth living?”

      Maybe we should add a qualifying clause to that: “The over examined life is also not worth living.”

      Should not the duality factors of life strive to be balanced? Is it the unbalanced, juxtaposed value sets that drive the pursuit of excellence? (Not that I want to be excellent, I’d settle for better.)

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      1. These thoughts are the remnants of my brief but obsessive involvement with Buddhism. I’m definitely not “a Buddhist”, per se, as I give no credence to the supernatural bits (reincarnation, the Bardo, etc.), but the psychological truth of the delusions and/or illusions of division and permanence and inherent existence is something I now consider unquestionable. The more I contemplate these things, the less solid seems my own identity — something that was never static or even tangible in the first place, of course. You in the past is irrelevant. You in the future is a non-thing — a conceptual flow-of-time idea that stops being the future the moment it comes to pass. So what is Mole? What is Mudge, even? Precisely whatever those two fluid processes are doing, thinking and saying right now, nothing more or less.

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    1. That’s my belief, and that’s kind of the point of entwining the reader/editor mind with the writer’s.
      Writing computer code is similar. Over time you learn the right way to write and structure your code; what syntax to use, the appropriate way to handle error states, etc.
      Eventually one can write perfect code — first try.
      What’s different from fiction is that it’s the environment that changes. Good fiction will always be just that. Good code goes out of style; better libraries, frameworks, patterns are developed and to stay current (viable) you have to adapt.

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    2. I will backtrack that statement, good fiction is always good fiction, with the fact that centuries are not kind to good fiction.
      I’m /trying/ to read Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Fuck Me Alex is it boring, droll and full of unnecessary blather. 120 years later — the story line is apropos, but the writing? Not so much.

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      1. LOL! The Bible and Dracula are the two most widely read books in the world! And Dracula is a parody of the crucifixion and the Holy Communion, eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ. So ask yourself…if the writing is bad…how did it become a classic? The subject matter?

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    1. Jesus, hair trigger – The Cat Who Wore a Pot on Her Head. Herding cats. Pushy parents “My daughter is a pitcher!” “Then why is she out in left field the rest of them blowing the tops off weeds?” Herding cats. Free form “jazz”. It was fun, though. Jackson inherits a girl’s softball team, by accident. Maybe you worked together?

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  2. I think there’s sort of a dialectic between the two. When you critique what you practiced, your body (or hands or whatever) begins to learn what the “right” move feels like, and the right one becomes second nature. The analytic brain analyzes the results as you add more moves. The more “right” moves that become part of you, the more it expands the brain to analyze the bigger picture. Not sure if that makes sense. A Nabokov doesn’t have to worry about grammar anymore.

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    1. Accumulation of skill enmeshed with one’s foundation allows one to left one’s mastery a bit at a time.
      Yes, absolutely makes sense.
      It is the fact that this must happen, in all things really, that I call attention to.

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  3. The deal is to be in the zone, where all else fades away. I return to dance for two of my favorite MEMEs.
    “See the music, hear the dance.” – George Balanchine
    And this, attributed to Mikhail Baryshnikov but seen elsewhere and paraphrased. Art happens when technique becomes invisible.
    Or hey, how about Sandra Dee – “People hear with their eyes.”
    The place where magic happens is beyond thought. You, your instrument, the cosmic radio. A divine trinity of its own. Feed their eyes with a colorful story.

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    1. It is a process though. Subsuming technique until it is part of your personal language takes time, practice and directed analysis. Only once you achieve a certain level of ability can you give into the flow of creation.

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      1. Once you give in to the flow you get out of your own way a lot sooner. The balancing act is okay, go with the flow. But know how to freaking edit. Skill, in editable work, is often a back door proposition. In performance, you screw up you better play through it. Don’t judge. Happy accidents. If no one is injured, no harm, no foul.

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  4. The Edmonton Oilers’ former head coach Glen Sather once said of Wayne Gretzky (considered the greatest hockey player of all time) that was how he played the game of hockey.

    He seemed to be both participant in and observer of the game.

    Liked by 2 people

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