Accidental Expertise

Intuition.jpg

There are certain things I’ve actively tried to master as a model: posing and expression and a basic sense of composition spring to mind. There are also more subtle, overarching skillsets to develop too, like a sense of vulnerability enough to pose nude, and bravery to try new things.

But as I was working through my inbox today, I realized I’ve been training up another kind of skill entirely: things I never attempted or even meant to master, but somehow am putting my ten thousand hours into anyway. I think this second set of skills is important to look at. They’re a reminder that life doesn’t always turn out as planned, and that even the best jobs are made possible through work that you don’t expect. So, here are a few of the things I never realized I was learning.

Worrying

I told my best friend the topic of my blog for this week, and “worrying” was the first word out of her mouth. I chuckled dutifully, but really, she was right. When I started, I did not expect modeling to be a high stress job. But work for yourself long enough, and you’ll become a connoisseur of worry.

There are the big scale worries: will enough gigs come in that I’ll survive? Should I really be working for myself when it’s so risky? When did anyone think I was enough of an adult to trust me with running my own business?

But I’ve also become an expert at small scale worry, too. Will this gig cancel? What if I get lost and don’t make it to the shoot on time? What if they don’t like the color eye shadow that I’m wearing and never book me again?

I feel like I have a gift for worrying, but really, it’s a habit. But one good thing has come out of all this worrying. I’ve learned a certain amount of resiliency, and forward thinking that has served me incredibly well. 

Email

Modeling isn’t just posing. It’s communication.

No list about modeling would be complete without mentioning the surprising amount of email required. Modeling isn’t just posing. It’s communication. And sometimes that communication takes the form of creating a beautiful image. But I am constantly amazed at how much happens before a shoot—how many people there are to keep in touch with, how much scheduling and management is required, and how much time is spent in front of a computer to facilitate making art.

On the plus side, all that email has taught me the value of clarity, brevity, and politeness in communication. I never thought that posing for pictures would teach me to write better emails, but here I am. 

Avoiding Email

To anyone currently waiting for a response from me: I am so sorry. Traveling does not leave a lot for time for tending an inbox.

That said, there’s a particular kind of email avoidance that I’ve truly become a master at: the problem email. You know the one I’m talking about.  That one from the client that just can’t seem comprehend basic English or healthy boundaries. The one you just know will read the date wrong or want something ridiculous. Or the difficult email that requires just the perfect wording to improve a delicate situation.

I think I have spent more hours thinking of response to these messages than actually writing all my email combined. And yet I still have no idea what to say when I actually sit down at the keyboard, and they invariably settle to the bottom of my inbox to collect dust.

Smelling Other People’s Bullshit

Sometimes I feel like my olfactory senses have become a type of superpower. Over the years, I’ve developed an intuition on when someone is going to cancel a shoot, or when someone is going to cancel and isn’t going to pay the cancellation fee (okay, that one’s pretty easy, because the answer is “more often than not”).

I’ve also started to get a sense of people’s styles and personalities from their pre-shoot communication—whether they’re calm or uptight, whether our personalities will mesh well or not. I’ve even gotten to the point where I can often tell if they take their work too seriously, or if they’re kind of pervy and trying to hire me because they want to see a naked chick, and avoid them.

Smelling My Own Bullshit

You know those other people? Those problem ones I feel slightly smug about being able to predict and therefore avoid? It turns out, I can be ten times worse.

It is so much easier to lie to yourself than to anybody else. It’s so easy to lose perspective, or to be flaky to your own goals, or to take your art too seriously. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done these things—just look at this list for example. I have an entire section devoted to avoiding email. I still mess up and subvert myself on a regular basis.  But I’m learning, and I’m getting better.

I’m learning that I’m as predictable and human as every other person, and that I have my own bullshit that needs to be kept in check. I’m learning to acknowledge and learn from it—and even, occasionally, when I’m very lucky, smell it ahead of time.

I’m slowly becoming an expert on my own mistakes. But I can use my developing accidental expertise in forward thinking, resilience, and communication on myself, to make myself a better model.