Business Concepts for Creatives Part 7: Specialization
One of the challenges faced by the creative personality is that you are often faced with conflicting priorities created by your own imagination and desire to make reality of your ideas. A few hundred years ago the process of turning vision to reality basically took three forms – sculpting, painting, and architecture (maybe others, but I can’t think of them). By contrast, the contemporary creative is faced with a multitude of options that have expanded the possibilities, the challenges and the competition. How can anyone build a successful creative career in this kind of environment? One of the answers is specialization.
No one is good at everything. Very few people are good at more than one thing, particularly if by good you mean ‘good enough to hire’. But often creative types will attempt to prove their abilities in more than one area, partially because they a interested in more than one area, and partially because they believe that other people are good in more than one area.
Let me be completely straight with you. Almost no-one is actually good at more than one thing. Directors are good at directing, photographers are good at photography, modellers are good at building models, and animators are good at animating. Most, if not all, professional productions are completed by highly skilled teams made up of extremely specialized people. The more expensive the production, the more specialized the team members. There are people who have built great careers just animating water, just playing funk bass, or just painting portraits.
Even in situations where people develop more generalized skills, often they start as specialists. It’s that dedication to learning a single skill that becomes the uber-skill in this case. If you can master one thing, you’ve also learned the process for mastering other things. As a generalist you never gain this most valuable skill.
Want an example? Look at something that seems totally unrelated, like MMA, a sport with which my agency has had some dealings. The best fighters in MMA often come from a background of specialization – they might have been wrestling champions, or jiu-jitsu champions. They apply that same dedication that made them champions in one sport to learning the mix of techniques required to succeed in MMA.
We’ve seen the same thing in all sorts of creative pursuits. Great animators become great directors by dedicating themselves to the task. Talented musicians become multi-instrumentalists and composers by applying their knowledge and dedication to new tools and processes.
If you are starting out your career in a creative field you’d do very well to figure out one thing that you’re passionate about pursuing. Your dedication to your craft will open more doors for you than if you halfheartedly pursue twelve things. Believe me.