Should You Do It Yourself?

"I think the downside today is that people think you can do this yourself, and you can do it yourself, but you'll be a much happier human being if you do it with other human beings."  - Mick Fleetwood (referencing digital home recording)

This quote comes from Dave Grohl's great documentary Sound City.  If you're a creative person, it's worth watching.  You can stream it for free through Amazon Instant Video right now.  

Should you do it yourself?

I recently wrote about how I was quitting.  I wasn't enjoying recording anymore.  I was doing it all by myself.  With the exception of a few saxophone solos, every note that you hear on my recordings is me.  For a long time, I relished that control.  
Well, as Mick Fleetwood said, I could do it by myself, but I'm starting to feel like I'd be a much happier human being if I created with other human beings.  

How about you?

Do you enjoy creating by yourself?

Do you prefer collaboration?

Let me know by replying in the comments below.

Have a great week!
John Anealio

24 comments:

  1. I tend to write solo. Sometimes I write shared world pieces with a friend i've known since highschool but he writes even slower than I do, so co-projects are hard to finish.
    Luckily friends and family have a great deal of input for rewrites, so getting something done, even when 'alone', pays off on the back end.

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    1. Thanks for the input Terry. I've been happy working alone for so long, because I got tired of other people slowing projects down. Now I'm starting to feel the downside of working alone. There's probably a happy medium.

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  2. The act of creation is solo and anonymous, it happens deep in the artist's heart. But for it to happen and be uncovered by our work there's an input needed. And that comes from working with others.

    I shoot photos, and of course, when I'm shooting objects I do it alone. But the most interesting thing with photography is shooting and interacting with people. The models, make–up artists, scenographers and bunch of other people are what makes this all interesting. It's the «happy accident» sometimes what pushes us forward.

    I could not create in the void, but I can polish what I created alone. In fact I like to wait some time after making a shot, and later, alone, work on it. But it's just polishing something that emerged upon interaction.

    You may wonder then why I said the act of creation is solo and then talked about that interaction. Well, it's just that the end result, the finished piece, is something else for each of the co–creators. The makeup on the model for a MUA, the set and lighting for a scenographer, the pose and look for a model, and the overall expression and colors for me, the photographer. The same piece, yet so different kind of art created and captured in one. For music I think it might be the same — the chord progressions, the sound of a note, the vibration of distant string, the melody and the beat, and the postproduction uncovering all that. So many acts of creation captured in single piece.

    I think people may be afraid of loosing control over their piece of art — but one must learn that art is not science, and sometimes the little imperfections (from others, from the «happy accidents») are what's the spirit of beauty in the finished piece.

    Take care John!

    Sincerely,
    Marcin

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    1. Wow! Thanks Marcin. That's a really insightful way of looking at it. That helps to clarify a lot of thoughts that I've been having on this subject. In many ways, I like creating by myself, but I miss the human interaction. Like you said, there are so many different things that go into the finished project of a piece of art. Being solely responsible for ever aspect can be draining. Inviting other people into the process is what I think I need to do now. It would take the drudgery out of it and perhaps being open to other people's input would be a good idea.

      Thanks a lot and best of luck with your photography!

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  3. My friends and I all have our main projects and daily life going on, but to keep it fresh and explore new ideas, we do an online collaboration as well. We each do our individual tracks on a piece and email it on to the next person. It takes about a year to finish up an album, but we can all knock it out in our spare time without having to force too much at once.

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    1. That's a great idea! Thanks for sharing it.

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  4. I agree that it is very tempting to try to do everything yourself. But I find that collaboration usually leads to a better project in the end.

    Personally I am glad when people include me in their projects.

    My friends are FAR more creative than I am. They have fantastic ideas for projects, and I really don't. But I have skills, good taste, and an eye for detail. When people bounce their ideas off of me, usually we improve the ideas together.

    One often overlooked advantage of collaboration is that it's faster than doing everything yourself. For example if someone needs a graphic created they have all the tools they need to do it. But I have all the keyboard shortcuts memorized. I know the best and quickest way to get it done. That saves people time and frustration and frees them up to do more of the stuff that they like best.

    I love helping people out with their projects. And I always try to think of ways to include my talented friends on mine.

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    1. Thanks for the input Matthew!

      I think that is something that I'm looking for, to speed the process up. To write, record, arrange, mix, master and release a new song take up to 2 months! It's way too long, and I don't enjoy certain aspects of the process. I have to find a way to loosen up and let go of controlling everything and find people who I can work with.

      Glad to hear that your collaborations work well.

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    2. Interesting that you mention you would need to find people to work with.

      Since you seem so connected in the writing community I guess I always expected that you had a similar group of peers among music geeks who would be happy to help you out.

      I'm including a link to a friend of mine in Southern Indiana. He's the biggest Geek Music Guy on the entire Ohio River. And he he specializes in collaborations! He works with other musicians, bellydancers, I think one of his projects even involves visual projections on a screen while he plays. He's a good person to know. Especially if you ever want to book show during a Con in Indiana.

      https://www.facebook.com/silpayamanant

      Or the facebook page of one of his projects (the Klingon one)

      https://www.facebook.com/ilTroubadoreKlingonMusicProject

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    3. I will check him out! Thanks Matthew!

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  5. That's a good question. For me part of it comes down to how easy/quick a project is. I was wondering, what if you wrote down the steps in your music making process and gave them a "enjoyability" score. That way you can find where the bottleneck is and see if you can find help with it. Say you don't like editing. So maybe there's someone who likes editing or will do it on the cheap. If you work with them, you've eliminated the step you don't like so you can spend more time on the steps you do like.

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    1. That's a fantastic idea! I often get bogged down during certain parts of the recording/editing process. If I can find someone to help out with those parts, it would probably make the whole experience much more enjoyable.

      Thank you!

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  6. As a lot of people have pointed out, there is a compromise. The times when collaboration has really worked have been some of the most rewarding artistically. On the other hand, there have been plenty of times when collaboration has been a pain. And even when I do create something alone, it is intended to be "consumed" by others and feedback really is valued. Of course, the more one is used to working by oneself, the harder it is to give up control....

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    1. Thanks for the input Felicia. I think the difficulty of collaboration is what drives many of us to work alone. However, I'm starting to thing if you find the right people to work with, then it can be much more fulfilling than working alone.

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  7. For me, it alllll depends. For the most part, I write for myself. However, I have a parody on deck that I'm writing with a friend in mind because the original vocalist is female, and I don't quite get into her range.

    Overall, in fact, there are some times when your friends and colleagues can do not just things you can't, but things literally only they can do the way that the project demands. And sometimes they're not right for the project.

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  8. As a writer, I've long known that going it alone is the express track to disaster. I once likened writing a book to racing: it's the driver's name that gets splashed around, but there's engine builders, suspension tuners, pit crew, back-office staff, etc. behind that driver. The author needs beta readers, editors, cover designers, publicity, and maybe a few other things. Sure, some of us are able to do one or more of those support roles, but (to riff on an old adage) he who is his own editor has a fool for a client.

    Musically speaking, a recording studio is much like a publisher: they take care of all the non-playing-music aspects, for the lion's share of the revenue of course. Unless the music is really simple, it's not reasonable to expect anyone to do all that well. The one or two novelty songs I've recorded started with a MIDI file that I snagged online, and all I had to do was add vocals and mix in Audacity.

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    1. I think the Nascar analogy is apt, and I think the recording studio/publisher comparison is spot on Larry.

      For a long time, I enjoyed doing all of those jobs, but I'm getting to the point in life where I'm just not digging doing all of that anymore. Doing all of those jobs is wearing me down and draining a lot of the enjoyment from the process. The difficulty is finding people that we trust to help us with our art.

      Thanks for the valuable input Larry!

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  9. I had to think about this one for a bit, because the first easy answer didn't feel right. It turned into a blog post of its own:

    http://makropp.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/monday-musings-am-i-really-alone/

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  10. Note: This is long. I apologize in advance. (Maybe I should have collaborated with an editor. :-) )

    I'm a writer/editor, not a musician, but I think the things I've discovered about collaboration can apply to almost any kind of creative project. I've only ever worked alone, but several months ago I got a job where I work with a team. (I'm a writer and editor for the Crash Course and SciShow educational channels on YouTube.)

    I was nervous about the team aspect, but I've found that I really enjoy it for several reasons. (1) It's difficult to proofread your own work because you know what you meant to say and your eyes scan over little missteps without noticing. My editors constantly pick up on stuff that doesn't say quite what I intended, despite careful proofing before submission. (2) I get lots of ideas from the comments and questions that I receive from the rest of the team. Their thoughts, both negative and positive, spur my creativity along in ways that I never imagined possible. (3) Several of the people on the team are non-scientists, and their questions in particular help me clarify my writing -- not to mention my own thoughts -- on certain topics more than I ever could otherwise. The gift of seeing through other eyes besides my own is unspeakably valuable.

    Having said all of that, I also write a personal blog, and I think I definitely wouldn't want to collaborate on something like that. I'm well aware that my writing there isn't as polished and concise as would befit a professional, but that's actually how I want it. I want my blog to represent me as a human, imperfections and all, not merely as a Professional Writer Chick.

    So I guess my comment boils down to this: Collaboration isn't right for everything, but for certain projects I think it's amazingly valuable. I think it's true that two (or more) heads are better than one, especially in the sense of being exposed to multiple perspectives, no matter what kind of work you're doing. I hope that helps at least a little.

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    1. It does help! Thank you.

      Yeah, I think certain projects would be a lot more enjoyable with help from others, but there are some things that I"ll probably always want to do alone. I guess the challenge is figuring out what help you need and then finding the right people to help you complete the project.

      Thanks again!

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  11. I also enjoy composing by myself, but I look forward to being challenged on lyrics/melodies/arrangements when it is time to record. The songs I produce with a partner/group are always different than when I produce on my own. It adds a flavour that I may not have otherwise considered. I love creating/performing with others and am intrigued by working with people online and creating something in collaboration without even having to meet them in person. I remember being so excited to compose a song and play/record every single instrument on the track. Now I feel it only limits the potential of a song by having a one-dimensional vision.

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