Photographers and Artist have a lot in common; however, they see things quite differently. The Photographer sees things as they are. The Artist sees things from their audience’s perspective. The Photographer’s view to some is considered to be self-serving. The Artist sees things as you; the audience would like it to be. Hence, we should strive to be an Artist when we are on the platform. Anyone can take a picture. However, it takes an Artist to make a picture. The question is therefore, which one are you aspiring to be like when you are on the platform – Do you want to be like The Photographer or Artist?
While all speakers start like Photographers, a speaker’s goal should be to become an Artist. Photographer’s work depends significantly on the quality of their gear. All the Artist needs is vision, experience, and confidence. The great speakers never surrender their pen to satisfy their audience expectations. They are original in their thinking. While working with Derek Walcott in my early theater years, I admired how he tirelessly stressed what it takes to be an original. Derek was a risk-taker. He would often take risks with his choice of words when many of his mere mortals believed his language had the potential to be more destructive than productive. He firmly believed that you could not make it as an Artist without taking risks. As a speaker, very early I chose not to settle for being one of the many imitators. Imitations may get a second look. However, originals take to you to places only where your imagination would ever dare to go.
Finding your voice as an Artist takes courage, conviction, and a commitment to being honest. Be true to your beliefs, even when there is a cost. In 2007 I attended a coaching session with Dbrooks at sea. His advice that we should never comment on something someone cannot change stuck with me. Sometimes it is best to let them figure it out. Being liked as a speaker has its benefits, but audiences also love listening to speakers they respect. The comments and feedback of the respected are often concisely packaged with wisdom that speaks volumes. Having been a member of the Edge for many years, Mark Brown and Daren LaCroix immediately come to mind. They are speaker coaches whose comments may sound abstract at first, but you realize they are the Artist’s teachings that make you get the picture over time.
Speakers often ask, can someone change from being like the Photographer to become more like an Artist? Indeed, they all can, but they cannot be forced or coached into making that switch. It all depends on who you want to become as a speaker. For starters, the change begins with a commitment to being observant. You should be willing to step outside of our comfort zone to see things differently. It would help if you are also more probing about the events you encounter in your daily life. Practice focusing on only one thing at a time and share your observations with friends and family. Call that sharing storytelling time. Get off the treadmill of life and observe the many exciting events that often pass by silently. They are the stories that pluck the strings of our emotions.
In 2007 Dbrooks also advised that we document the related emotions when we capture events in writing. He also suggested that while perfection is impossible, excellence is always good enough. The first step is to write it all down. Just like a photographer, you must first capture the moment and the emotion. Later, that experience can be re-written. It is in the re-writing, you will take what you got initially to become better. In your re-writing, you should strive to develop the picture that is relatable to your audience and not just the Photographer in you. How you choose to build on what you captured initially over time determines if you will be known as another one of the millions of Photographers on the platform, or if you are on your way to becoming known in the speaking world as an Artist