Originally published April 25, 2013
I spent a fair portion of last night writing a letter to a friend of mine, which I am including here (below). My friend’s name is John, and he has written a story and is working on an adaption for the stage, to be directed by an old college-mate of his. [EDIT: Their work has an IndieGoGo site to help fund: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/obviously-michael-a-new-play] John asked me to compose music for the play, which I was and am very excited to do. However, I’d been seeing a lot of doubt and fear in many of our conversations, and felt the need to write him this letter:
You’re a really good guy. That’s mostly all I wanted to say. It may seem like I’m doing you a favor working on the show, but I cannot stress enough what a privilege and an honor it is to be asked to work with you in any capacity.
For a long time now I’ve been thinking about “what it takes” to really succeed in a creative field, specifically in the creative arts. I’ve come away with two major themes.
The first one is: never, ever, under any circumstances allow your past achievements (or lack thereof), or your current level of success be any kind of indication of the value of your work. I know you believe in what you’re doing as a writer, as a performer, and as an artist. If you didn’t believe in it, you wouldn’t be making it happen. However, it’s easy to say, “Well, I see the value in this project, but I would never assume that anyone else does.” To that, good sir, I say, “Bullshit.” You must already know that there will be many people who don’t give two shits about what you’re doing, or who actively dislike it. What you may not already know, or at least haven’t fully internalized and believe, is that there are many people, myself included, who care an awful lot about what you’re doing, and who want very much to support you in the endeavor. It’s about trusting your audience, and knowing that they’re out there. Your responsibility is to find them, and to make yourself and your work available to them. Your responsibility is *NOT* to “make” people care about what you do. The people who will care already do; they may just not know your work, yet.
Once you begin to trust your work’s value, and trust that you have a caring, supportive audience, the second thing to do is simple: own it. Stop talking yourself down. No one likes a braggart, but no one likes OR respects someone who doesn’t respect himself. You are on a path to provide something to the world that is not only entertaining and thought-provoking, but something that can help people to heal, to think, to challenge and to reevaluate parts of themselves and their lives (and that’s just from me having read it once). This is a gift. To devalue yourself, to doubt your ability to execute, to be “humble” in the most inaccurate sense of the word; these things are offensive to you, to the gift you’ve been given, and to your audience. These things are offensive to me as your friend, as a member of your audience, and as a professional.
I am seriously excited about this project, and I look forward to working with you and sharing the experience with you. So stop doubting, and start owning it. I will write something that I think works. You tell me what you love, and what you hate. Then we make it perfect. I will be happy to discuss ideas for the script and for the music, but this is your project, and I am following your lead. I always do my best to keep my ego (i.e., pride, fear, doubt) out of my work, and I trust you’ll do the same. It’s professional courtesy, and you can’t spell “courtesy” without “Court.”
Be in touch.
Love you buddy,