After I wrote last week about how we ought to be makers rather than backlashers, a friend pointed out that this distinction can be scary for some. While backlash is easy — all you need is a social media profile or two — not everyone is convinced they have what it takes to be a maker.
This is because we (and I’m as guilty of this as anyone) often talk about a maker’s work as something he or she does alone. And while sole proprietors have enjoyed much creative success — from Thomas Edison to Picasso to C.S. Lewis to P.T. Anderson — you need not view yourself as a one-man or one-woman operation.
Here’s a vital truth about the journey of making something new: You don’t have to go it alone, but you do have to go.
I can’t think of a better illustration than hearing screenwriter Michael Arndt talk about the collaborative process he was part of while working on Toy Story 3 at Pixar. Yes, Arndt is the credited screenwriter on the film (you may have also enjoyed his script for Little Miss Sunshine), but he made no bones about the communal approach to creative work at Pixar, an organization teeming with gifted storytellers.
Arndt told his interviewer that his job was just to get a lump of clay on the table — a rough draft of a story — so that everyone else would have something to look at, react to, and reshape. Arndt’s name is on the screenplay’s title page, but the words and structure on the subsequent pages were shaped by the team.
The decision to be a maker rather than a backlasher is the decision to participate in the creative process. If you’re like a golfer or a tennis player — a maverick who’s best suited to work on your own — by all means, do it. If you’re more like a basketball or football player — someone with specific skills to bring to a team — that’s great too.
The dynamics are nowhere near as important as the decision to make something new.
Scott McClellan is the Editor of Echo Hub and the Director of Echo Conference. You can follow him on Twitter: @scottmcclellan.