Middle C: On Hitting the Right “Creative” Note
Developing Creativity In the Today’s Digital Age
Creativity can be developed in more ways than one. A life as an artist was once essentially an academic career path, in which one would train extensively with masters and then find one’s own patrons, whether individuals or institutions, and possibly later train others. Now that lifestyle can only be achieved by an incredibly small number of artists. Today artists may have academic training, or might train themselves using available tools and materials, then set about finding and marketing themselves to their own audience–which is no small task. Is there contention among these approaches, and what can be said of elevating a non-academic arts education?
According to Jeffrey Davis, author of “Creativity Is Not About Amateurs or Academies” for Psychology Today, there are two camps in creativity. On one end are those who evangelize self-expression and see the digital world as a beneficial conduit for that expression. Davis calls this the “small c” creativity camp. On the other end are those who advocate the canon over personal expression, whom Davis refers to as “big C” creativity camp. While both may have a sense of the universal and historical, the latter focuses more on making a contribution to the traditional medium.
Davis sums up the challenge for the amateur. “The Artist, in the conventional sense, ultimately seeks inclusion within a very exclusive set of conventions, organizations, and institutions, which approve, rate, and fund the Artist. Or not. You’re either chosen and brought in and funded, or not. You either get ‘sold’ to your medium’s respective institution, or you remain a bohemian juggler.” Simply put, it’s more difficult for the amateur to win the opportunity to make a living producing creative work.
In response to this cold fact, Davis puts forth what he describes as a “bridge” option, one in which the amateur can develop a creative professional orientation. I would refer to this as a plan for hitting middle C, or a professional but non-academic approach to a creative career. Davis’s tips:
- Take advantage of digital media, but do not rely solely upon them.
- Seek out “apprenticeship” opportunities to adopt a deeper understanding of your chosen medium.
- Infuse sound business strategy into your art form to create a flexible and profitable creative practice.
This article resonates with me and my work with creative professionals of all backgrounds. I would even argue that whether one is a self-taught filmmaker or film school grad, a first film festival experience can be similar. More than ever before, the economy demands more self-assessment, differentiation and promotion of filmmakers and other creatives. On the bright side, while there’s less public funding available for independent artists, there’s unprecedented access to the means by which we can reach our audience and tell our own story. By taking time to learn and ultimately elevate ourselves from amateur to practicing artist, we truly win the right to broadcast our story and accomplishments, and ask our audience for support.
Photo: Courtesy of Elliott Billings via Creative Commons.