Your weakness is your strength

I heard this many years ago in an interview on TV:

"Your weakness is your strength"

I didn't understand it, it just sounded like nonsense. But the phrase stuck with me for some reason, and after a long time I began to understand it. And in looking back, my weakness is what has defined my work all along. The parts I didn't know, the parts I had to work-around is what came out the most rewarding. Most times we do not know we are compensating for some weakness, we just work until we are happy with the result. I'm suggesting that what really goes on when we are working is weakness being transformed into strength. Here I'd like to take this idea a step further and suggest using "not-knowing" as a creative tool.

Let me take a practical example. When I was developing the original 1.0 version of Trapcode Particular I wanted to add shading from composition lights. But I didn't know how to implement shading, so I started to investigate it. I realized that to understand shading I needed to understand light. Fully. In trying to understand the maths of light I "accidentally" created Trapcode Lux. Without my "not-knowing" of how light worked mathematically I would never have created that plug-in. Had I just looked up in my old CG textbook the formulas of shading, I wouldn't have gone there. 

There is in fact great value in "not-knowing", investigating and experimenting. I totally understand that with looming deadlines this is just not possible. But I want to encourage you, when you do have the time, to make your own investigation of the subject matter. You never know what great stuff may come out of it. 

And regarding copying: that is how we naturally learn new things. We see things that resonate and we try to replicate, to mimic. But it is the failure of copying exactly that becomes the personal touch, the original part. In this sense, weakness becomes strength.

So, in essence, I want to suggest this method as a creative tool at your disposal; that when you need to do something, rather than looking for a formula or tutorial for it, you can try on your own. But when you don't have the time to experiment, or feel lost or uninspired, or just don't want to, there is of course nothing wrong with using a formula.

Peder Norrby / Trapcode



PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

« Chew Lips "Slick" by Gregory de Maria / Resident Creative Studio | Main | VITAL EP x 2 - by Adrien Dezalay and TAKCOM »

Reader Comments (9)

no tutorials means minimize work for the trapcode support team...easy n reality happens usually something which gained commercial values and they begin to shrink on the quality...sad

May 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterknowlongersupptrap

I think there is nothing worse than browsing through a list of plugins going "Hmmm, what weird stuff can I use today?" - It is a classic example of the tail wagging the dog.
I also think there is nothing wrong with being inspired by other people's work, but it is an entirely different matter when they rip people off because of their inability, lack of imagination, or the simple fact that they just can't be bothered.

Products like Particular prove time and again that a flexible concept can allow people to run away with the idea and create totally new visuals, but it seems so many people just want to use the presets or copy others people's ideas.

The bottom line should always be to think of a cool idea, and then work out how you plan to achieve it.

May 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRob Neal

knowlongersupptrap: No, I will not stop making tutorials! That was not the point. And btw, tutorials *decrease* support load, if anything.

May 30, 2010 | Registered CommenterPeder Norrby

"Had I just looked up in my old CG textbook the formulas of shading, I wouldn't have gone there."

Unless you built your own light bulb from scratch and then spent years of research in the area of Photonics, at some point you had to rely on the work of others to guide you. That, in and of itself, may have hampered your ability to truly understand the nature of light. For all you know, there is a whole other avenue of research left unexplored because common belief says light works in a certain way. which means you might have been able to create an entirely different and more innovative product (although, in actuality, you know how highly I think of your work. This is just a point I am trying to make).

Being resistant to learning from others when appropriate can keep you from success and creativity. But, as an artist, you have to remember that a tutorial is designed only to get you from point A to Point B. Point B, however, is not the end of the journey. There has to be a Point C, at the very least.

My point is that there is a flip-side to your statement about weakness: resistance to learning from others is just as paralyzing to creativity as learning only from others (and not through experimentation).

So, yes - your weakness can be your strength - but only if you don't let your weakness be your weakness. If that makes any sense.

And thank you for not being afraid to speak your mind to a community that you have helped build and influence so greatly. You are always a source of inspiration to the rest of us.

May 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAharon Rabinowitz

Aharon: You bring up a good point - both methods are just as paralyzing if practiced all the time. As the saying is; we stand on shoulders of giants. I'm not suggesting to use one method all the time, I'm suggesting being aware of both and switching between them. I wanted to spend a moment celebrating "not-knowing" and "weakness", as I feel they are currently somewhat under-appreciated. Thanks for your comment!

May 30, 2010 | Registered CommenterPeder Norrby

Peder, I am not someone who faults you for saying this. I agree with your statement. It was my weakness in effects as a writer/producer that limited me.

I think as someone who recently picked up After Effects the tutorials are essential.

You really have no concept of what the program is capable of without seeing someone demonstrate how intuitive and natural it can be. I feel that way about C4D too. I don't have it but I enjoy watching the tutorials so that the program makes some sense to me and I can see how it works.

But I am the type of person who will take a tutorial, watch it and then open AE and try to use some of the techniques to test how that really looks/works but then wants to add another spin to it from something else that I think I can do.

A lot of those projects will never see the light of day aside of the RAM preview but now I can better explain the vision if the effects are outsourced and be able to contribute in a pinch on smaller projects.

I really appreciate all the work all of you for us. It really helps demystify elaborate programs like AE, C4D, etc. It's incredible to me that so much is available on my laptop. The tools are incredible and expansive - techniques are constantly being discovered and staying on the cutting edge of scripts, presets, plug-ins, helps everyone create using the newest tools at our disposal.

The online community for this is amongst the most supportive I've ever been apart of. Its like everyone just wants everyone else to succeed and I think that's cool.

May 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Scott

..."I didn't understand it, it just sounded like nonsense."

You were right the first time.

June 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersean

"But it is the failure of copying exactly that becomes the personal touch, the original part"
spot on ! excellently put !

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterharry

As a teacher (french) i thank you for this testimony.
Some have doubts about it because this sentence cant explain all, and their answers are quite usefull too. I dont think it's a denial. your weakness is your strengh when you are strong enough.
It remembers me an other : when you want to create an masterpiece, dont try to do a masterpiece.
Took me ten years to really understand it :)

September 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAyoli

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>