Why every creative needs someone to turn to

Posted on April 14, 2010

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For all the ineptitude, laziness and (in some cases) rudeness I come into contact with at the BBC – really the Corporation is no different from any other organisation, it’s just my expectations which are higher because it’s the BBC – there are times when I meet people for the first time, chat to for a while and feel reassured.

It takes only a few minutes for me to realise that the person I’m talking to is someone who’s on the same wavelength as me. And when I realise there are other people with the same mindset as me, I instantly realise there’s hope for any creative dreams I might still have banging around in my head.

So it is with Ramaa Sharma. (When I asked her if I could blog about our meeting and take a picture,she declined. God only knows why. She looks as gorgeous as this picture ALL the time.)

Ramaa’s a multi-media trainer at the BBC’s College of Journalism who I first bumped into down in Bristol when we blogged about some journalism-related events hosted for BBC staff. A few weeks later she turned up in our office. She explained her background. I moaned a lot about how ‘people don’t understand me creatively’ and .. there we are.

We met today for 35 minutes. I wanted to road test my ideas again only this time with someone else.

I explained how I’d been asked to produce some videos for the Proms website and how – unlike previous years – I wanted to spend a bit more time planning, researching and scriptwriting. It made me feel dirty even saying out loud. I loathe planning. I love the thrill of chance and seeing what comes up in the final edit.

I talked through the five main ideas. It was a tiring effort. I’ve lost track of the number of people I’ve explained the ideas too. I’m conscious the whole while of not boring the person I’m talking to to tears. Everything has to be punchy. Depending on who I’m talking to, I need to drop in buzz words or shortcuts. I need the listener to know exactly what the vision is in my head. That way I won’t have to talk too much. Even I can bore myself with the sound of my own voice.

I hadn’t expected the effect of using the phrase “talking heads” when talking to a former broadcast journalist like Ramaa. She understands “talking heads” to be the quite dull affairs seen in news packages about the diminishing levels of cod levels in the North Sea. To me, “talking heads” merely refers to the idea of individual contributors saying something on camera and the fact we’re seeing their head and shoulders in the shot.

That difference of understanding prompted a negative reaction from Ramaa to the first idea. She quite rightly pointed out that having other contributors on board is fine you just need to present the finished piece in a stimulating way. A way which engages the viewer.

Hearing that piece of advice (which itself stems from a response to an idea I’d described using an unfortunate piece of terminology) was exactly what I needed to hear. That feedback provided an opportunity to explore ideas with someone outside of the entire idea. Not only does the seeking feedback stimulate the mind into thinking differently about a project, it can also help develop that idea further.

And that is vital when you’re producing something. If you want to refine it, or optimise it or on the simplest level do the very best you possibly can, then you need to take the bold step and share that with people. It’s terribly difficult, because instinct tells you to be quite protective of your own little baby. But take that leap and you will get something in return. It won’t necessarily always be a new idea, it will sometimes be the reassurance you need to continue pursuing the idea you hit upon in the bath.

And believe me. The BBC needs a LOT more people like Ramaa around. Her and more of a creative sandpit for other struggling, wannabee creatives to experiment in. There must be thousands of people on the payroll with ideas they want to pursue. They just need the right environment to blossom.

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