ALONE

Pen and Notebook Modern electronic media and traditional art are not synonymous, although they both draw water from the same well. Creative media always seeks to establish a relationship with an audience, while art may be the product of other motivations. Both inevitably require substantial creative energies to come into being. Both may invest a great measure of personality from their creators. But above all, creative work of all types inevitably demands a sizable measure of time on the part of the creator focused in his or her own head, often alone.

The irony here should be obvious. Whether by force of a pen inscribing a few precious lines of poetry, or a stage director looking to send shivers all the way into the back row of the theater, most moments that convey meaning and emotional response stem from intense, focused, often private labor. We understand the poet immediately, quietly scratching out verse while leaning thoughtfully against the trunk of a tree. If you're wondering about the stage director, remember that long before he or she meets with actors and set designers and lighting techs, a director must do the work of refining a vision. There's reading and there's often writing, too. There's research and study, and like your parents always used to tell you about homework, no one can do it for them.

The same is true for those who produce soda commercials and magazine make-up advertisements. Even as more billable creative work tends to operate inside the forum of larger organizations, the day- to-day effort of writing scripts, drawing storyboards, or processing digital images from photographic memory cards comes down to one person leaning in to the work, often for many hours alone.

Of course, creative types often DO work with other people; most disciplines demand it. But I find those to whom I pay most attention are capable of motivating themselves outside the pressures of groups.

Make no mistake: I love working with teams. The energy and invention and even bonhomie camaraderie of creative teams has rare equal, even if it occasionally comes with intense interpersonal challenges. The pleasures of sharing ideas, of finding growth that always surpasses the limits of what any one person could singularly invent, imbues resonant satisfactions. People are interesting! The best experience from working in groups is the reflection of larger humanity's historical sweep of achievement, of culture. In a narrow microcosm, we recreate the best of our own shared triumphs as a species and celebrate it with re-enactment.

But like all performances, the lights ultimately dim. Even after standing ovations, audiences always go home. Players who live for the applause often don't survive. Applause is fleeting. But those who can take pleasure and satisfaction in the intense world of singularly creative mind return to quiet spaces and dream again. If they're good, applause may very well return. If they're perceptive, they may even be aware that applause is something they can court. But if they care about their craft, whatever it may be, that time alone is something they're not going to trade for anything in the world.

--MS

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