In my freelance career, I was blessed to work with all sorts of people who had varied work habits as any group would have.
There were hard drivers, self-motivators, laid-back artists, quirky designers and every once in awhile… a normal person.
As creatives, we try to avoid normal folks. Nothing personal… they just don’t get “it” most of the time. They also try, though well-meaning, to fit into a group that no one really fits into as each digital artist has their own drummer to march to.
Conformist “normals” also try to define the undefinable, which gets messy around creatives because we don’t always live in the real world.
Through it all, two types of driving force came to the top very quickly.
The Visionary and the Workhorse.
The Visionary is the creative force behind the idea while the Workhorse implements these ideas to the best of their ability within the direction of the Visionary.
It makes for a good team and neither can accomplish much without the other.
The Visionary is, arguably, the most important aspect of the partnership. Without vision, there is little if any success. Visionaries can live way out there too and I don’t mean a physical location but that was rare in my experience. Most were well grounded in their ability and their execution of an idea.
Some Visionaries can get carried away with a CGI enhanced project. Sometimes they seem to forget that someone must implement their ideas in the real world. They try to assign impossible tasks that eat up the budget and morale.
Again, for me, this was rare. Most Visionaries are very protective of the final product and therefore do all that they can to facilitate the real-world implementation of their idea.
Another important aspect of the Visionary is leadership. They don’t all share that quality. In my experience, Visionaries who make artists compete against each other usually end up with a questionable product that will go straight to DVD… or straight to streaming as it is nowadays.
A real leader isn’t that concerned with how they look or come off to others. It’s the final product that speaks to their dedication to the arts. In that same vein, a real leader doesn’t ridicule the Workhorses in front of other Workhorses.
As to the Workhorses themselves… if we dig a little deeper, we will find that this same distinction exists within that group too.
There are Workhorses who are creative and able to implement ideas and there are workhorses who bring the ideas into the real world by following the script faithfully.
In my own career, I went from Creative Workhorse to Implementation Workhorse.
Over time, I had been through enough scripts to start thinking I may never have an original idea again. My personal creativity shrunk as I was exposed to one script after another.
Some of my fellow freelancers suffered the same fate as we worked together over the years, but most seemed to retain the ability to read hundreds of scripts while still coming up with ideas of their own.
As a project director, I was usually in charge of the big picture. Trying to keep these two different personalities and skillsets operating in harmony with each other could be difficult at times but overall it was a pleasant experience as professionals police themselves for a common goal.
One thing I might add... I never worked on a project that had the Visionaries screaming at the Workhorses and was a success. They all succumbed to the weaknesses this type of work relationship leads to. Poor morale and lack of continuity with no clear direction is never a good thing.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if you are a Visionary, a Workhorse or some of both because it takes both to get anything accomplished. What does matter is always being the consummate professional no matter which side of the fence you find yourself on.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working parttime on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD at his website.