Working with other kinds of artists

So, like I said, the panel I went to today (after finding the Magical Land of Free Parking--I'm telling you, a lot of good things happened today, but that was the highlight) was really interesting. The panel was: David Brin, Jennifer Brozek, Miss Amber Clark, Michael Ehart, and Dara Korra'ti. All of them cross art boundaries on a regular basis: Either they collaborate regularly, or they do more than one form of art themselves, or their actual job is to get people from different fields to work together.

They all agreed that one of the main problems is that people from different disciplines use different jargon, so that even when you're trying really hard to explain to people what exactly you want in words, you're going to fail. In fact, it can lead to what Brozek called "violently agreeing"--i.e. you both actually want the same thing, but you don't realize it because you're using different terms.

The answer: DRAW. Even Brin draws! "If you can't go ahead and show it, it will be misinterpreted," said Korra'ti.

Clark noted that another area for communication difficulties is when people have a large problem with the work (the overall tone or whatever) and instead of saying that, they name particular details they don't like. So Clark goes and fixes those little details, but it doesn't take care of the larger problem, so they go through round after round of little fixes until finally she figures out what the person actually wants. So, you know, if you just don't like the whole thing, be up front about that and save everyone a lot of time!

(I'll toss in some observations of my own: Publishing in particular seems to attract a lot of hedgehogs, so sometimes you had artists who basically did not read working with editors who had nothing but contempt for anyone didn't spend their spare time leafing through Finnegan's Wake. It was a bad mix--the editors didn't understand that, no, the artists probably hadn't read their deathless prose, and when they found that out the reaction was often quite insulting. So I would keep in mind that there are different kinds of intelligences in the world, that you can't expect everyone to think exactly the same way you do, and that just because someone doesn't have the same proficiencies as you do doesn't mean that they don't have equally good if not better proficiencies of their own.

Another problem was the assumption by some writer/editor types that the only reason visual artists ever do anything is to be cool and pretentious. I even knew people who assumed the overhead lights were always off in the art room because the artists were trying to be cool and pretty much having a party while on the clock. (It's because working that way is a lot easier on the eyes, hello.) They usually do have reasons to do what they do, and if you're willing to talk to them respectfully, they'll even tell you!

Yet another source of conflict was that writers and editors of prose tend to be somewhat more linear and organized thinkers--it helps their art to keep track of storylines and maintain continuity and all that. Visual artists tend to be less linear and more intuitive and kind of random, which helps their art--if you look at something like this, there is stuff from all over the place, but it all makes a kind of sense. If you are a more-linear thinker, dealing with someone who is less-linear can be disconcerting: They're running all over the place, their office is a pigsty, they keep changing the topic of conversation, it's utter chaos!! And I sometimes see the writer/editor types trying to rein the artist types in as though they were rambunctious children. Really, as long as deadlines are being met, let it slide. It's OK, and it's part of their process--if you really try to quash that, you'll make it so they can't do their job.)

Korra'ti is a musician (among other things) and noted that the digital revolution hit musicians first and "writers are next in queue." Some similarities: Nowadays literally anybody can release a song, and the challenge for listeners is to find something they like. How that filtering works in music nowadays is by having, say, fellow very secret member of the Illuminati Jay-Z work with you on your song--no more Prince making his name by doing one-man albums!

Korra'ti is also doing something very cool: She's working on what she calls a soundtrack for a book that combines reading of its highlights with songs. This idea really appeals to me--you could actually create something from the ground up that integrates song and story. Basically a musical in audiobook form!