This famous coaching advice is so well known that it is almost a cliche. There is no I in TEAM. It has been used for a long time to convince athletes of the necessity of teamwork. And this is right. A sports team must work together. Winning is a team effort, not an individual thing.
I am turning this saying upside down for this article. The point here is that my art is not a team effort. There is no team in I.
Not a group effort
My creativity and the products of my creativity, my art works, come solely from my head. I do not have collaborators or mentors or advisors. It is a lonely and scary place in here, but it is where I work. There is not room for anyone else in here. Plus, I’m not very sociable when it gets that personal. If someone tries to get in my head I resist strongly.
I enjoy listening to artists I respect talking about how they create and what their process is. I browse images from other photographers and painters. But those things are just inputs. Some of the forces that “pump the laser“, as I have written before.
But after a time, the books are closed, the videos are shut off, and I come home from the galleries. It is time to work. A writer or a painter is faced with the terror of a blank page waiting to be filled. A photographer must confront the terror of “nothing of interest“. A world of clutter and stuff that does not call to us.
How to respond to that is not the subject of this post. See the one I reference above. The point here is that it is up to me to do whatever is going to be done. No one else is responsible. No one else can do my work.
Helpful suggestions aren’t, usually
Ah, the helpful friends or family members who come forward with suggestions for what I should shoot. “I saw a great scene yesterday you should check out.” Or “I would do a project about …”.
They are sincerely trying to help. I appreciate the thought and the care behind what they mean. But even my wife does not really know what might motivate me at any time. No, I take the suggestions thankfully. Sometimes I politely shoot what they suggest. They almost never makes my short list of good images, though.
Ultimately, it is up to me to get off dead center and do something. I have to find or generate motivation about something. Creativity means I created it.
No collaborative environment for me
The corporate world and the education establishment believe with religious fervor that collaboration is absolutely the only way to do things. In one of my previous lives as a software architect and a user experience designer I was deep in such an atmosphere.
Surfacing ideas was a group process, design was collaborative, even deciding on requirements was required to involve a group discussion. Everything involved a consensus process. I felt then and I still firmly believe that such a process leads to a median quality in everything. It might improve the efforts of a poor designer but it greatly limits the capability of a great one.
Now, as an artist, I am not limited by a group. Of course it means I do not have the support of the group to carry me when ideas do not come. But walking the high wire alone is part of what you buy in to when becoming an artist.
I cannot share responsibility (or blame) with anybody for my failures.
I realized a long time ago that I am an introvert. This is fairly common to creatives. If there is too much “noise” or chatter or helpful suggestions I cannot think creatively.
I need to be alone in my head. I need to protect that small, dark creative space while ideas are flickering into life. Many may die there, but some will grow and develop. Like a young tender plant those ideas need to be protected while they develop.
My ideas do not spring into being fully formed. Sometimes I get a glimmer of something that needs to be worked on. Sometimes something draws me to a subject and it is only later that I begin to realize what was calling me.
I long ago discovered that if I am having to argue for or justify new ideas as they are forming, many great things will be lost. It is hard for me to argue for something I don’t yet understand well. I will save the arguments for within my own head. Even then I lose a lot of them.
There is enough noise inside my head already without having to deal with the clash of outside opinions.
My value as an artist comes from the uniqueness of what I bring. This develops from my individuality.
If a group process produces average results, the only way to produce excellent things is to let individuals flourish. My art is my own. All I have to present to the world, such as it is, I can at least know is a product of my own mind. It is me.
I am not skilled at telling you about me, but when you look at my art you see what I think and value and perceive.
Teams are not for me.
Teamwork can be good. I have been part of great teams in my previous career and as a musician once upon a time. Being part of a well functioning team is a joy. But I believe that the artist is excluded from the team. He is the one sitting on the edge that no one chooses for his team. You know, the one with the far off look, wandering off, not paying much attention to the game.
So if there is no I in team, and if “I” is all I have to sell or to differentiate myself from the rest of the world, then there is no place for team in my process. There is no team in I.
And that works OK for me.