How To Cope When a Creative Project Falls Through
It's always difficult when you can't achieve a goal or continue with something you're passionate about due to external factors. One of the things that happened to me in my second year of University is I started a created project with my course-mate and good friend.
The great thing about this project was that it was her idea and original concept, and I was just the missing piece in the puzzle - she needed a photographer to actually document the project, and she loved my aesthetic, so we really gelled.
As time progressed I became perhaps over-excited about the project. The response on social media was fantastic (we have over 1,000 Instagram followers to this day, despite not having posted in a year), and we had a promising email from a print publication who wanted us as a regular feature on their well known website.
The thing is, I never perceived my enthusiasm as negative. I threw myself head-first into emailing prospective subjects, promoting the site, and (here was my crucial error) monetising it. I don't want to sound arrogant, and in fact I am looking back on this action of mine critically - but my entrepreneurial side took over and was already picturing in the future, press coverage, a book deal, selling merchandise etc.
Now, if this was one of MY projects, that would be a great position to be in. I have never had as good a reception to anything I have done as I had here. The problem was, my partner-in-creativity (lame but accurate) didn't feel the same way. I think I truly upset her by jumping the gun and compromising the artistic integrity of the project - but I just saw my actions as being productive and beneficial to the project.
This is where you have to consider the challenges that the plurality of working in a team presents, even if that team is only a partnership of two individuals. What I saw as positive action, she probably saw as cheapening, vulgar and unnecessary. Perhaps this is what separates commercial creatives from 'true' or 'expressive' creatives: but I myself have always viewed commercial creativity and the latter as not mutually exclusive, and able to inhabit a middle ground where ideas and aesthetics are marketable but not devoid of emotion or artistic sentiment.
She confronted me about how she felt about my actions, and I immediately decided that this was not a matter that was worth falling out over, as she was one of my closest friends at University, and I really wasn't very popular at University! I backed off, and handed over the responsibility of arranging shoots, contacting possible collaborators, and social media over to her.
What followed, disappointingly, was inaction. The project faded away over time as no more shoots were arranged, the videos we had already shot remained unedited, and our social media followers started to desert us. Our friendship also became less and less relevant as I took my first semester out of University for health reasons, and then we had increasingly less lectures on campus in our final year.
It was tough to come to terms to the fact that I had let one of the best creative opportunities I have ever had slip out of my hands, and not even preserved the friendship upon which it was based. I ignored the advice of all of my friends to continue the project without her, it seemed tacky and unnecessarily incendiary. I am considering following through an adjusted version of the project myself, but I am still left upset and frankly a little annoyed at our missed chance to do something artistic that would have defined my University years.
The way I dealt with this 'loss' (a funny choice of wording, but that is what it felt like), was to start a few creative projects of my own that fulfilled me and that I had total, autonomous creative control over. One of them was this blog!
I have realised that I struggle with being a team player when it comes to this kind of thing - I often live by the motto 'if you want something done properly, do it yourself.' But rather than berating myself for this, I am trying to realise how valuable it is to be a self driven individual who is willing to spring into action and put the hours in to see the fruits of their own labour.
I would advise those thinking of embarking on a creative collaboration to sit down first and talk about who is willing to devote what to the project, and delegating roles. A lack of clarity can lead to confusion and to a sense of 'mutiny' if one person oversteps the mark, so it is important to actually set out some guidelines in order to avoid upset on behalf of either party.
Looking back, I would have done everything differently. I wonder if perhaps I had held off on my instinct to throw our work out there, contact people, and publicise, the project would have lasted and been a fantastic body of work to have to my name.
However, I have to glean from this experience a positive aspect: I've discovered how much of my free time and hard work I am willing to put in myself to realise a creative vision, whether it is mine or someone else's. As someone looking to start a career in the creative businesses, this can only be a positive revelation!
Have you ever had any experiences where someone misinterpreted your enthusiasm for trying to 'take over'? How do you make sure that as a highly motivated individual, you can work efficiently in a team without imposing your own ideas? I would love to hear from you so please comment below!
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