Saturday 4 August 2018

Creative or Industry?

I work in the Creative Industry. It's an oxymoron really isn't it? There's nothing industrial about creativity - or is there?

I straddle the book and TV world with my writing and I often wonder if they could learn something from each other.

TV writing is definitely an industry. This week alone I've had a hand in editing or directly writing over 20 scripts on five shows. I've also written a bible for a new show and spent a day in a creative meeting with colleagues from Norway and Ireland punching up ideas for another new series.

When you're working at that rate to deadline, you'd think creativity is the first thing that goes out of the window. You'd be wrong. Actually, working to tight deadlines on shows with large budgets means you are often forced to come up with even more creative solutions to problems. There's no time for anything else. As illustrated by this frankly terrifying image:

If I'm working on episode 123 of Mr Bean for example, I know there have already been (excuse the pun) 122 good ideas that someone somewhere has already written. It's my job to come up with idea number 123.

Sometimes I'll be told that I can't have any new characters. Sometimes I'll be told he can't leave the house. Yet I know, whatever it is I get him to do it will need to be distinct from every other story told about that character already. That pushes your creativity. If I were writing a book I could have him do ANYTHING at zero cost, but in the world of TV, solutions need to be creative in a different way.  And that doesn't mean it's not successful, this one's been watched over 10 million times on YouTube alone:

It's unheard of to write 100 books about the same person in the same situation - where would you even begin - but in the world of TV it's not a success unless you do!

In TV, I don't have time to procrastinate and search for my muse, however, I do create story after story after story every single week.

The world of books could learn a lot from the TV world. We live in an 'on demand' society. Writing for children this is even more the case. Not only do they want something now, they want, and have come to expect a lot of it - every series of Peppa Pig at my finger tips now please!

What's worse, unlike in adult media, the audience ages out of things in the space of two years - or two months at the current rate of my 5 year old - so we don't have time for them to 'find' it.

However, in the world of books, something is bought, it might get published in 18 months, then depending on it's success they might publish another in the series, or maybe even commission two more to come out six months after that... By which point the audience who enjoyed the first book are gone and you're starting all over again.

I don't think creativity can be measured in volume, nor in sales, nor in success or financial reward. One of the reasons I enjoy writing books is because of the creative freedom it gives me that I don't have in the world of TV. It's like stretching different muscles.

However, it frustrates me that in a global media world, we as authors sit in an arcane little bubble of long lead in times and slow response times to demand from our audience.  There's a lot to be said for allowing creative people to be creative in whichever way they want. There's a lot to be said for industry too.

Next time I'll take a look at what the world of TV could learn from the world of books - let it never be said I'm not an equal opportunity offender!


Pippa Goodhart said...

Really interesting. Thank you! I've had to come up with 73 different stories about the Winnie the Witch and Wilbur for books, but that's still not quite as many, and certainly not as fast, as you manage. Hat off to you!

Sue Purkiss said...

Am in awe!

Moira Butterfield said...

In fee-only publishing deadlines are very tight and there are short lead-in times. I've just been asked to do two picture book synopses plus two cover briefs and two sample spreads by next tuesday (it's tuesday today). I will get the fee in 30 days, hopefully....