For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.—Steve Jobs
As a result, I am dragging you, dear reader, along with me on my journey this week as I more openly consider what I am. Am I a photographer? A writer? A musician? A cripple? A father? A lover? Or just a blowhard with an over-sized ego trying to get attention? There is at least one person who would answer affirmatively for each of those questions, and none of them would be totally incorrect. We are all complex, multi-faceted individuals and if we gave your life the same level of examination we might find even more questions worth asking. I’ll admit to having an ego, but I consider it an occupational necessity. More importantly, is the ego justified?
What I think is important for me this year is not so much a matter of identity, which is why I’m not asking who I am, but more a matter of definition, hence what I am. Who I am can be superficial, but what I am runs deeper and forces one to consider in what areas one is truly effective, where we make a difference, and to what degree we understand what we’re doing. Defining what I am should, to a limited point of reason, provide a more solid vision of how to plan for the next year, playing off strengths and determining whether to shore up weaknesses or let them float away.
Where the strongest battle lies is whether I am more a photographer or a writer. Do I communicate better with pictures or with words? On these pages, I blend both, but is that working; which one is stronger? How many people read the articles versus just looking at the pictures? When we look at income, revenue from writing and revenue from photography have been almost even this year; depressing, but even, which would indicate there is a similar value to both. But is one dominant over the other?
A term that is coming into its own, perhaps to the point of cliché, is using the word “creative” as an identifier. The use is especially strong among advertising and marketing agencies trying to maximize the multiple skills of a limited number of people in order to hold down personnel costs. As a result, instead of 40-member teams, each with a different role, we see ten-member teams of “creatives” who wear multiple hats. That definition seems to fit what I am, at least for now. I’m going to try it on, take it for a spin around the block, and see what happens.
charles i. letbetter, creative. Perhaps a bit pretentious, but accurate.