The greatest story I ever heard from a famous person came from Kevin Smith, the director of Clerks and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. He recounted that, before he had made any of his famous films, his sister told him “You’re already a filmmaker.” Once he realized what she meant, it changed his life.
Today I can share anything I want and may be able to reach an audience of millions. I can put it on the internet, create a newsletter, and even publish a beautiful print edition for very little money. I could even make a great movie with only a few tools and no budget.
The downside is that not everything that gets published in this way is great, or even good. A lot of times, DIY efforts lack decent editing, design, or even a cogent thought process behind it.
So if I want to ensure that my work is good without the help of a publisher, it’s up to me to vet my own product, test it on the market, and show it to people who will let me know if I’ve made errors.
That’s hard, discouraging work. The point is, you don’t need permission to share what you’ve done. But the more you put into what you share, the more you get back.
So who is responsible for the quality of my students’ work? Is it me? Maybe at first.
Maybe I’m supposed to be the one who tells them when something doesn’t sound as great as they thought. Sometimes I am that person. But sometimes I make them be the bad guy.
I ask them, “What do you think could be better here?” And frequently, they can tell me. The only reason they hadn’t improved it already is because they thought I had to give them the right to have an opinion.
I prefer to give them back their power. I like to tell a student, “You can perform this however you want. How do you want to perform it?”
They usually don’t want it to suck. And if they don’t know they’re being dull or self-indulgent or not seeing the forest for the trees, once I tell them, they usually prefer to take another track. The point is, they’re intrinsically motivated to share something extraordinary because it’s their right to share, not mine to let them share.
Kevin Smith decided one day that he was already a filmmaker: He just hadn’t made a film yet. So he made the best one he could, and it was a classic.
Do you have something you want to do or share? What’s keeping you from doing it? Who do you need permission from?