When You Steal…

Artists steal. It’s well documented. It’s a topic that has come up a couple of times before (here and here). But it occurs to me that some may not know exactly how to steal—artistically speaking, so here are some guidelines.

  1. Only steal things that are useful. One of the side effects of meeting new artists, or new people in general is that you are introduced to ideas, approaches, and working methods different from your own. That can be both invigorating and confusing. More importantly, it can cause you to re-evaluate your own approaches and methods. Some people adopt every new thing they find, only to discover later that it is not useful to them. Just because it’s new and appealing and available doesn’t make it necessarily worth taking.
  2. Don’t be afraid to cherry pick. Just as important as re-evaluating your own methods is the necessity for evaluating those new ideas before you appropriate them. Over the last couple of years, for example, I have had the opportunity to observe several other stage directors working. In a number of cases, I observed techniques and approaches that I could never embrace. But occasionally, I encountered an idea that is so good I wonder why I had not thought of it myself. (There’ a whole blog in that question.) Choose carefully what to steal.
  3. Take care in implementation. Once you have found something worth stealing, you have to figure out how to implement it. Do you just apply it wholesale? If you get a new procedure, what do you do with your old procedures–throw them out, rearrange, modify? And if you do any of those things, what does that do to your rhythm and flow? Because, no matter now good an idea may be, if adopting it throws you off your game, it’s not practical to adopt it. You may also discover surprises as you implement new procedures. Consider all the consequences before you adopt new processes.
  4. Adapt what you take. Unless you are completely dissatisfied with your present procedures and approaches, adapt the new ideas. That way you can build a better method, approach, procedure for yourself. An example: the other evening, I walked into a rehearsal and saw the stage manager taking notes on an iPad using a full-sized portable keyboard. What a great idea! But before I ordered one, I had to ask myself if I would really carry around a full-size keyboard, even if it was super-thin and super lightweight. No. Too cumbersome for me. But the idea was too good to let go—adaptation was required; it turns out that several manufacturers make iPad cases with built-in keyboards. They aren’t full-sized, but, according to their users, they are far superior to typing on a touch screen. This would be a far better solution for me, since I have no problem carrying around an iPad.
  5. Keep your good stuff. Some will completely throw out what they are doing and how they are doing it when they discover something new. This sometimes happens, for instance, when actors discover Sanford Meisner; they completely discard their former training and replace it with the Meisner technique. Other actors add Meisner’s ideas onto the base they have already built, then add features from multiple philosophies to create their own unique approaches. If something is working for you, don’t throw it away. Add to it.
  6. Remember where you’re going. When evaluating a new approach, consider your own goals and procedures. Are yours the same as the person’s you are stealing from? Will these new ideas allow you to achieve your own goals more easily? Or will they require that you modify your goals? And if they do, is modifying your goals something that you really want to do? Again, don’t throw out what you have just to accommodate untried appropriated ideas. Go back to step 4.

Stealing, you see, is not just a matter of seeing and taking. It requires a significant amount of evaluation and caution as well as care in implementation. When judiciously applied, it can, however, be one of the most useful skills that an artist can possess.

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Date: Monday, 2. September 2013 0:25
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Creativity

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