My first real praise file was a folder where I collected all the letters from my staff, thanking me for the outdoor education programs I designed and managed. Reading them got me through difficult times. In those days they were handwritten, which gave them a certain magic that is lacking in today’s digital world. I still have them and writing this reminds me to read them again. I wonder if I can still read running writing. ;)
I have a box of cards and letters from clients and camera clubs. They usually send handmade cards with their photographs. The box is very precious. It is incredibly beautiful to open and wander through the years of memories in there. The handwritten words are full of life and heartfelt appreciation.
Another praise file is a collection of references from teachers and colleagues. These were once used for job applications and invaluable in my career. I was so pleased I asked for them along the way. For really important jobs, I asked referees to specifically highlight aspects I wanted to emphasise.
Recently, I showed a class this point in a talk on creativity. It suddenly jolted me into feeling that I wasn’t doing that well with my art, nor my teaching. So I started a folder in my emails simply called “a praise file”. I started putting every complimentary email that I received into it. At the moment it is growing quickly as I am getting such lovely letters from subscribers to my daily inspirations. It is heart-warming.
And that’s the point isn’t it? To be heart-warmed by your work and what you can do for others. It is a huge self-esteem boost. It’s indescribable how special each one of those words of praise is.
Keeping and looking through them during those moments of self-doubt, is a magical pill that instantly lifts and corrects one's mood. .
Untilled photograph from the Flesh and Stone series. Taken during last years Fine Art nude photography workshop in the Blue Mountains. I am running it again this year. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2018