October 27, 2009

Knowing Your Place as an Artist

There is something to be said about knowing your place in the process. As a new writer, I remember the twinge of pain at seeing my work in print after an editor had chopped it up without asking me. I don't know if I was more hurt that it was chopped without being asked or that it was better after that process. I learned a very valuable lesson...my job was to write it the best I could. That's it. Nothing more. I came to understand that my responsibility was not to concern myself with what the editor did with it after it was in their possession.

Some artists and creators are given full control over their product...some do better with this responsibility than others. Stephen King has noted that he loves having an editor, and it shows in the quality of his finished product. But after several hokey films, I think we can all agree that other directors do better a job making his writing into film than he does when he is involved. Just because he writes books very well doesn't mean he is good at screenplays and bringing the original work to life on a big screen. There is some measure of artistic control that he has to let go of in order to gain a quality finished product.

If you work with or as artists in a professional setting it is important to learn this because many do not have complete creative control. You can create the perfect art piece or write the best sentence in the history of composition, and your client can opt for the idea that was your leftover option thrown together just to have one more option. It can be tough to see your best idea rejected in favor of something less than your best.

But the video below reminds us that as writers and artists our joy can and should come from the process. The Men with Pens blog makes a similar point by reminding us that while we don't jump out of bed with excitement about writing, we are certainly empowered and enlivened by the process of doing it.

So remember...Enjoy the process!

What do you think?


  1. I watched the video and wondered if David Letterman ran out of other things to talk about. Over 2 minutes of him asking over and over if Johnny Depp watches his own movies. To which Johnny kept saying "no." Which was funny, but obviously he isn't happy to what happens to his scenes after he's done with them. :)

    (btw - word verification "pouper") ;)

  2. I didn't get the impression that he wasn't happy...I just don't think he cares. He is an actor and gets his fulfillment taking on the role of the character. He knows he doesn't have a say in how it ultimately turns out.

    Great word verification!

  3. I like how Depp said once his job was done it was none of his business and I think that is a perfect comment on writing and editing -- I can see this as both a writer and an editor. I used to edit and people would become upset to find out I had changed or deleted their words for clarity-sake. Then I had someone edit MY words and I understood that feeling of losing control of what you write. It is all part of the process.