A box has arrived on my desk today, addressed to Artist 22.
It marks the beginning of a new project. Not a large project, but one I’m looking forward to putting my creative mark on, and also one I shall respectfully project manage my part in as carefully as I would a vastly bigger challenge.
There is a meme that periodically does the rounds of social media that goes along the lines of, ‘Creative people don’t have messy homes; they just have ideas lying around everywhere.’ It’s one that irritates me immensely, because it suggests that creatives live in a world of constant chaos over which they have little control, and whilst it is true that the more stimulus a creative mind is given, the more it goes on to have further off shoots of ideas – as in most other fields of life, the reality of living one’s life with a creative focus needs to include a discipline and order that recognises the need for organisation and has a deep understanding of the length, deadlines and roles involved in each individual project. My colleagues would not only be extremely cross with me if I didn’t complete my part on time, but grant monies might be rescinded, pressure put on others further down the line, a great deal of goodwill lost and in the worst case scenario, the project might collapse altogether.
I said that my box marked the beginning, but actually that’s not true. The five phases of managing a creative project are;
My part in this project goes further back than the package on my desk. It truly began when I was approached to be one of the artists. I had to consider whether it was something I felt comfortable doing; discover the vision of those who had instigated and brought it into being; listen carefully to details of their ideas and find out how much ‘scope’ I have to put my own interpretation on the brief; find out what roles everyone involved has and, most important, what are the deadlines we are working to. When working with creatives, the deliverables are heartfelt creative expressions and those who have carried those ‘babies’ and invested in them, sometimes for a long time and after lengthy pursuits of funding and permissions, and sometimes with very personal reasons behind the concept, can be inevitably more wedded to the overall product of their work than others might be, so it is particularly important to treat them respectfully and sensitively.
What I’m really focusing on now is the planning part. Ideas have been sorting and re-sorting in my mind since I first heard about the project, but it’s time to get those ideas in order, to draw up plans and pull together the resources I need. With the best will in the world, I couldn’t do that with any degree of efficiency if I lived surrounded by mess. I need things to be accessible, my time to be managed effectively and my working space to be organised. It’s a misnomer to think of creatives as airy type creatures that float from idea to idea, because if that was the case, they simply wouldn’t be able to do their jobs. They have to be part creative, part manager, with an eye on the bigger picture, an empathy and ability to communicate with everybody else involved and the tools and skill to carry out the task.
There’s a box on my desk.
I’m curious now to explore its content and where my imagination will take it, but, in doing that, I am constantly aware that I am only Artist 22, one tiny link in the chain of this project coming together, each person involved with their own set of deliverables and a significant part of the bigger picture.