Once, someone called me a genius, and it felt so good that I started looking for more opportunities to be called one. I would lock myself in a room and try to come up with good ideas all by myself.
Without anyone else, though, there was only so far these ideas could go. Sometimes, my insecurities would win out, and I would start second-guessing myself and get caught in a never-ending cycle of revisions. Other times, I would end up having to share the idea anyway, in order to get it done, only to meet some resistance, get frustrated, and shut it down.
Lately, I’ve been more open about my ideas, more willing to expose their flaws, and the results have been terrific. Another person’s idea can turn my bad idea into a good one, and while it no longer belongs just to me, it’s twice as ready to exist. I realize that I’ve been fundamentally wrong about the makeup of ideas: they’re not heavy stones, that I should be able to lift alone if I’m strong enough; they’re big, awkward boxes, nearly impossible for one to lift, but an easy job for two or more.
We want our name in lights - to be on the cover of a magazine, to be a film’s opening credit - so we hog our ideas, thinking of them as our ticket to stardom. But there’s no such thing as individual achievement. It’s a myth. The magazine cover looks so good largely because of the makeup artist, and most films are essentially co-directed by their DPs. At CH, some of our best ideas come from “the room,” which means we all pitched into the idea so much that it belongs to no one, or everyone.
I mean “Don’t be a genius” like “Don’t be a hero.” Don’t set out on a hard creative path all by yourself. Collaborate. Dare to share the credit. The project will be so much better as a result, and a love for the project is more gratifying than a love for your name.