Last week was wild. I kicked off the week doing photography for Beth Behrs lifestyle book that is set to be released next year sometime and then transitioned into directing a short-film fri-sat-sun. It was all things beautiful and to be completely honest, all things stressful. The takeaway is that I learned a lot about myself and about the importance of protecting my vision.
Let me start by saying I've not gone to school for what I do. I did a few semesters of general ed at community college to make my dad happy, but school has never been a place I've thrived. And as it goes with being self-taught you can imagine that my process is a bit unconventional (which freaks out the people who do things according to the books.) Which isn't usually a problem, until you enter the den of the big-dogs.
Helpful Hint: Ego and Control mark this place.
I'll tell you now, as soon as you throw in with them, you will be judged. I would say it's best to just accept that fact and start preparing yourself for what that means and what that looks like. Which is what this whole post is about. Setting boundaries and protecting your "space" as an artist.
Also, please hear me: I am not condoning their behavior. I'm also not encouraging you to join in the game. I'm simply saying, it's going to happen so be prepared. AND when you have the opportunity to do the opposite - extend and create a space of freedom for someone else - please do!
Okay, so let's talk about this "space" that is you as an artist. What is it comprised of? I would say three parts: Your vision. Your voice. And your skill. These are the foundation for everything you create. It's what you see, how you translate it and the way in which you do so. I think that, if we choose it, we will always have the opportunity to be transforming and growing in these areas. Learning new skills, gaining new perspective and adopting new ways of allowing expression to come forth is crucial to our survival. We must be willing to be teachable. We must be curious. We must allow ourselves to malleable.
But we must also protect that space.
Vision is enticing. The way we see the world is going to speak to people. And they are going to want to employ and marry that vision to their own. That is what collaboration is. But it's a delicate balance, and it's not always easy.
As I opened, this last week was a whirlwind of creativity and growth. Both of the projects I was working on I was brought onto because my work was something that people were drawn to. And in both of the cases I was surrounded by people with years more experience than I. Which can be daunting. Especially when you don't adhere to traditional ways of doing things. I had several instances where it was "suggested" I do things in a certain way, or adhere to a certain principles and because I value the art of being teachable (and honestly because I just couldn't be assed dealing with the drama that saying no would have caused -- or maybe, more honestly, I hadn't gathered the courage to tell people to step off -- ) I bent to those voices. Now, in retrospect, I see that in most of the cases it was neither the time nor the place for me to allow someone to try and mold my vision to their own. The truth is, I gave away my power as an artist and so, my art suffered.
Boundaries are so important when coming into collaboration. I think it's important to preemptively identify where we see a need for growth in ourselves so that when the situation arises where you have an opportunity to learn, you can ask yourself if it is the right time and the right place for that to happen. And if not, you are prepared to the brakes and protect your space.
At the end of the day, remember that you define you. Be willing to listen. Don't let anyone's insecurities, judgements or need to control, move you to where you don't want to be. You know your vision. You know your voice. And you know your skills. Trust that. Trust your magic. Create your space. Allow yourself to do what you are good at. And when it's all said and done, let your work be what speaks.