Be a Forensic Analyst of Your Own Work

Be a Forensic Analyst of Your Own Work

In order to organize my ideas for my book I am going through all my previous notebooks. I have had a notebook for years but it’s only been since 2015 that I found how to keep my notebooks so I they could become analog tools in the future.

While looking back at all the notes I took, from ideas to quotes to drawings (to the miscellaneous part of course), I’ve realized that:

  • Notebooks are the most efficient (and cheapest) time machine.

While going through my notes I traveled back to the place and mindset I was in when I wrote them. Being able to connect with a faithful snippet from the past was enough to trigger a bundle of emotions and vivid memories. I have the memories in my head but I need something to summon them and the notebooks play this part.

  • Your past self will surprise your present self

Having the opportunity to zoom out and have a broader view of where you’re coming from, through what steps, who you were and how this illuminates who you are today is another cheap luxury. When you look back, you learn to see the clues. You also find out that some topics have been obsessions for years without you realizing it, or you re-discover ideas that were left unused and might find their place today.

Overall, taking the time to collect thoughts and ideas during the present will unlikely turn out to become a huge asset in the future.

Looking back is also an essential way to grow purposefully.

This was reminded to me by Annie Leibovitz, or better said a quote I wrote down on one of my notebooks while watching her (recommended) Masterclass:

Stop. And look back at your past work. You’ll be surprised.

You just have to work and not give up during the miserable time, and just keep doing it. It’s rewarding to keep doing it when you think you can’t do it anymore.

It only gets more interesting, and who knows what’s going to happen with technology and how you want to apply it to what you are doing.

World renown cellist player Yo-Yo Ma recently looked back at the way he used to play the Bach Cello Suite the first time he recorded it, back in 1983 when he was 27, versus now that he is 62.

Yo-Yo Ma talks about having the attitude of a forensic musical analyst when looking back at his own work but also at work in general:

You know, it’s a good play, but I try to do forensic musical analysis. Okay, what does this evidence say? What does this person know? What do they care about? The person cares about having a nice sound. This person likes to make things look good. But this music, it starts your imagination going. Where is he taking us?
And then I see, well, there is this stop in the middle, has that person thought about that great interruption? Does that person hear the pedal point that’s in there? I’d say maybe subliminally a little bit, but not something that is front and center. It’s basically “Let’s get this over with. Let’s stop. No silence, no silence. Go!”
So you get someone’s priorities when you listen and you always get someone’s priorities. It’s wonderful to be able to say “okay this person cares about this, cares less about that.” You get someone’s value system.

I love this idea of looking at your past work with a distance and wondering “what this evidence says”? And here again, Yo-Yo Ma notices that getting back to one’s work time and again will keep on providing new information, because as we change, the stories we experience change:

Like a great book that you read several times during your life, each time you read it it’s the same book. But you certainly get very very different material from the same stories.