Define Yourself or Not

“Nothin’ shakin’ on Shakedown Street. Used to be the heart of town.
Don’t tell me this town ain’t got no heart. You just gotta poke around.”

Shakedown Street – The Grateful Dead

Define Yourself or Not

Too long, didn’t read: long-winded commentary on the next expansion.

I taught a seminar class for master’s students for years. One semester, I posed the question and pushed the students about talking about their work. They are creating work with an eye to being professionals in the future, how would they answer if they were being interviewed?

The wonderful thing was over the semester, each began to define themselves differently and changing their definition constantly. Sure, they were getting better at it (yay!) but also recognizing the limitations of certain definitions; people will view the work in the context of that definition. This can be deadly when the box gets too small and specific.

How you define yourself in WoW can set the bar for how you measure success. If you are too specific, “I am a raider”, and do not kill all of the bosses, then you can feel bad. If you are too general, “I am casual”, then you won’t recognize the successes that you’ve achieved. Roles and goals are tossed around in discussions and we can find ourselves working to define ourselves or, worse, defend ourselves.

Look at how Sir Paul McCartney talks about process and not getting trapped in a formula:
McCartney: People used to ask me and John [Lennon], “Who does what? Who writes the words? Who writes the music? How do you do this?” And we say, “There’s no one way.” Sometimes it will be me. Sometimes it will be John. Sometimes I’ll do the melody. Sometimes he’ll do the words. Sometimes words come first, sometimes melody. We hoped we never arrived at a formula. You don’t want to. We used to joke if we ever arrived at a formula, we’ll bottle it and sell it, but the truth is you don’t actually want to arrive at a formula. There were a lot of records in the early days of The Beatles where a lot of people would find a formula and stick to it. Bands like The Supremes, there was a very similar sound to their records and as much as I loved them, we used to think, “no, you have to avoid that.” So you think about what we put out then and really the truth is there were no two songs that were the same. Actually, on this new record, I kind of worried about that at one point. I said, “Whoa, I got all these producers and these songs. They’re not all alike. They’re not coming out of the same room.” But you know what? I thought that was actually a good thing, because I check some Beatles records and you got “When I’m Sixty-Four” or you got “She’s So Heavy,” “Blackbird.” You know, these things weren’t really coming out of the same box and yet it was the same singles, the same band playing them so it worked. It was a continuity.

A new expansion is like moving to a new town. You get to leave your past mistakes behind (yay), bring all of your experience with you (yay) and find your place in the new (paradigm, pecking order, experience) dynamic of solo and group play.

I say: Allow your Altoholic past pave the way to a new single Main if the Artifact grind is the design. Let your long-time Healer be a dungeon master if that brings satisfaction. Adapt to the streets and language with an eye to success. Find out what this new town has to offer; new restaurants, new art galleries, new parks and lakes, new lovers and friends. Bring your family!

The problem with Conceptual Art is that the viewer is forced to see the work from the point-of-view of the Artist. We participants don’t always want our experiences to be defined by others or limit our experiences by our own layering of limitations and definitions.

Who knows? Maybe in the next expansion, you might be The Funny Guy.


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