I used to believe in the Lone Solider of Ideas — a kind of “Captain of the American Dream” who shows everyone else how to do good things. In my mind, this individual was a Lonely Pioneer on the dusty horizon of the future, trailblazing into the unknown. One Person against the odds, battling for their idea to be heard, changing the world with their vagabond spirit, fortitude and courage.
What a bunch of crap.
In truth, ideas just don’t happen in a vacuum. In fact, I might go so far to say that nothing humans create that is of any real value happens in isolation.
I used to look at individuals who often get sole credit for the creation of a genius product, be it Jonathan Larson of Rent, Lin-Manuel Miranda of In The Heights, or even Steve Jobs at Apple and think they somehow made it on their own.* That they had some kind of extraordinary otherworldly brilliance that would let them succeed alone where others failed. While the talent part is partially true, the rest isn’t quite that simple.
The ideas we come up with are inextricably intertwined with what’s around us, what we read, what we listen to, what we watch. It’s the way culture works. It’s the way our brains work.
And it’s completely OK to share!
We like having a figurehead, a single person to reference, because it makes it easier for us to understand and talk about things. And it’s not that certain individuals aren’t absolute linchpins in the creative process; they are. But it’s good to remember how much we need each other — and how much our creations owe to others around and before us — even when we’re busy being a pioneer.
In fact, I find this strangely comforting. It’s easier, and a lot less lonely, to forge a new trail when a whole tribe is helping.
*The rampant musical references are due to the fact that I am currently co-music directing a brand new musical here in Los Angeles. Through this workshop process, I’ve been continually amazed at just how much collaboration is required to make good things.