Creativity, Professionalism, and Knowledge Development
Since the middle 1990s, I have developed and self-published a considerable volume of essays and notes on social controversies, especially those centered around individualism, civil liberties, responsibilities, “family values,” “gay rights,” and free speech. My original motive was tied to a sense of personal insult over the way the “gays in the military” debate evolved, but in time the objectivity of the debate process became as important to me as the end political or judicial result. People perceive these sensitive issues from very different intellectual and emotional perspectives, as is even more apparent after the tragedies of 9/11/2001.
So I wrote. And gradually I became aware of the dichotomy that a literary writer or any other artist faces: balancing creative expression and intellectual honesty with business operation, a need to be able to make money, and professionalism as that concept is normally understood. Until recently I had a well paying technical job and I not have to be too concerned with the “business” side but now that has changed with “semi-voluntary” retirement. So I must develop a combination of content and services that is capable of being self-supporting.
Of course, a small number of “A-list” authors and filmmakers succeed by selling the content that they want do develop. But usually the “numbers driven” side of the career of a writer, filmmaker, or other artist necessarily emphasizes repeatable special skills that other people want and will pay for. So the artist must often apply his or her skills to develop content defined by others and often marketing-related.
There are many such skills that writers, filmmakers, editors, web developers and desktop publishers, for example, deliver for others. These include technical or proposal writing assignments, ghostwriting speeches or even books, proofreading, computer typesetting, web site development, presentation or video-conferencing assistance, editing content, film camera operations, post-production or animation. At the other end the author or filmmaker is developing very personal fictional or editorial content, which may be supported by the artist’s professional or academic background or it may instead be driven by personal experiences.
The “new” technology that grew rapidly from the early 90s—the Internet, desktop publishing, and now miniDV movies, enables artists to develop and exhibit or publish their work with, in many cases, relatively little financial risk and without the blessing of third parties. At the same time, however, the Internet, in particular, encourages a professional in any field to identify himself publicly as a practitioner of that profession (in conjunction with the “do ask do tell” idea of announcing “who he is”). This can create a psychological and sometimes ethical problem for the artist: if he publicly professes to be a software engineering guru, let’s say, then he may be implying that he is willing to leave the debate of other issues that affect him personally to other “experts” in other fields, particularly to the “professional” politicians and lobbyists.
I think that there is a bridge concept, that of knowledge development facilitator. A small consulting company could focus upon helping new authors, filmmakers, or even web publishers or database developers produce and develop their work, and maintain a legitimate stake in original ideas, particularly with helping with the research to develop various points of view about a problem as well as with the more mechanical writing and editing. Such a business could help a lobbyist, for example, understand the counter-arguments against his position without agreeing to ghostwrite a biased adversarial piece just for the lobbyist. The business could dig out the relevant facts from research, and provide “editorial” interpretations when matching these facts with those developed from related areas. The business would provide the electronic equivalent of the card-index file for high school term papers in the 50s.