What matters to you, your art and your creative business has a price. The price is vulnerability. You will be vulnerable to those that will say what matters to you does not matter. Notice I did not say does not matter to them. I said it does not matter. Wholehearted dismissal of what makes your art, well, yours.
If I could wipe out one insidiousness in ALL creative business, this would be it. The willingness to dismiss another artist’s process as insubstantial or, worse, irrelevant in the name of getting business or press or whatever is the road to oblivion. Were this a speck in the creative business universe, but, alas, it is not.
Telling a client, employees, colleagues, anyone, that driving a Mercedes is silly when a Ford does the same thing, is the same thing, does a disservice not just to the Mercedes but mostly to the Ford. Even worse is selling the premium of false equivalence. Because there really is no difference between a Ford and a Mercedes, hire me at more than a cost of the Ford but certainly less than the cost of a Mercedes. Ugh, I need a shower.
The answer to the problem (and it is a problem) is integrity and courage. Acknowledge that what matters to you, whether you are a Ford or a Mercedes, matters A LOT, as in is everything to you, your art and your creative business. Make this the decision any client, employee, colleague, media must make before talking about you, your art or your creative business.
I can give a million examples: the power of design, the importance of clean decisions, the depth/shallowness of collaboration, the size of a production budget, almost anything in The Four Transitions. Really, though, the answer, for you, lies in completing the following sentence: “To me, what we do begins and ends with ___________. This is our foundation and, without it, we really cannot go anywhere.”
Fair enough if that something does not resonate with whomever it is relayed to. They are not your client, employee or even colleague (at least they should not be). However, to those that do resonate with the something, all comparisons must rest in the resonance of that something. If competition resonates better in your something, the call to action is to become more vulnerable, not less; purer in your intention, not muted; resolute in your purpose, not diffused. Why?
The easy road is paved with false prophets and the quick buck. The easy road is an allure – you will get the project, convince yourself that you are the winner. However, the easy road always ends at a cliff and, like Wiley E. Coyote, you will be mid-air over the canyon without even knowing it. And since you will be an artist without a purpose or principles when you land, getting up will not be as simple as it is for Wiley. You will have systematically undone all that you imagined you, your art and your creative business to be. The road back is treacherous, if even possible. You might survive but only as a shadow of yourself and your art.
If you think I am being overly dramatic, think again. I watch countless creative businesses every day go down the rabbit hole of compromise (sorry Wiley) until they are barely breathing. Household names, designers we all deeply respect and literally pay to hear speak, who are almost perpetually on the verge of collapse. The façade only matters if there is a deep foundation, otherwise it is just a prop, a Hollywood set with nothing behind the curtain. Barely a breeze waiting to knock it down.
What you do matters. What matters to you and your art matters. Today, more than ever, no one needs dilution, false equivalence, or anything “who care?” or “I am that too”. In the creative world, your truth is what counts for your art and your business. Without your truth, what you do is just stuff and we are all oversaturated with stuff. The world needs art, not stuff. So please please please live your and your art’s truth starkly, bravely and without compromise. In the face of noise, get louder with what matters to you. Let that be its own reward.