Okay I will give a caveat here. Some realms of creativity are best done alone. Painting a painting, writing a book, these are things often done alone. For the most part however creativity requires a team (even the things above, but I’ll get to that). One of my favorite types of TV is reality TV. No not the Kardashian’s, or the “Real” Housewives, or Toddlers in Tiaras, those things will rot your brain and tend to generate (and encourage) terrible people. No the reality shows I like are the competition shows and especially the creative competitions. If there are people creating things and getting voted off, I want to see it. I love to see people create cool stuff under pressure. Of course there is one aspect that is always frustrating for the contestants and even me as a viewer and that is the team competitions. Everyone hates the team competitions. Everyone is wrong.
You see every creative effort, sooner or later requires a team and so every creative needs to learn how to lead a team and how to play well with others. When you join a team, you win some things and you lose some things. What you lose is creative control. All of the sudden your vision has to flex to the gifts, talents and contributions of the team. While one person should surely lead the project, it is almost always a mistake to ignore what the others bring to the table.
What do you gain? What everyone else brings to the table. How many times have you been working on a solo creative project and hit a wall? You get to the point in the project where you are leaving your strengths and heading into your weaknesses and you realize, one of two things. You’re either completely stuck and can’t move forward—stay here and the project dies—or you get begin to realize you’re spending most of the time working in your weaknesses. To get the project all the way home almost always requires more than you. Smart creatives know their weakness and surround themselves with people who are strong where they are weak.
Earlier I mentioned the artist and the writer who work alone and that’s great, but what to do when the creating is done. The artist needs someone to sell her work. They need someone to contact the galleries, get the commissions, perhaps frame the work, etc. Now she may be able to do all those things themselves but all the time she spends on those other activities is time she’s not spending doing what they do best. She needs a team. The writer may write his own book, solo, but to go to print without a fresh set of eyes reading and editing it is a huge mistake. Trust me I know. This is not to mention the work of publishing, distributing. A creative is never stronger than his or her team. Your team can do the things you can’t do, They an help you over the roadblocks and hurdles. They can provide fresh ideas. They can see your creations more objectively and at times they save us from ourselves. The best teams thrive on what we call drudgery and allow us to do our best work.
Look for the people who are strong where you are weak because no creative is an island. Creativity is a team sport. Who is on your team?
Excerpt from my upcoming book, You’re Not Creative and Other Lies You Probably Believe About Creativity