I hear it often and every time I do it makes me cringe. It’s funny because the words are usually offered as some sort of high praise, but to me they’re nothing if not damning. Really, how often do you hear someone praised because they know exactly what they want?
Dead-enders still enamored with George W. Bush hold up his stubbornness and steadfast resolve as a of badge of honor. But it’s not only politicians and world leaders that stay true to their vision, it’s artists as well. I’ve seen second-rate musicians praised for knowing exactly what sound they want the moment they step into the studio. I’ve seen photographers and filmmakers lauded by cast and crew alike for knowing exactly what they want before the first frame is shot.
What’s Wrong with Being Wrong
I don’t get it. What’s the virtue in knowing exactly what you want? Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have any kind of idea or vision in your head, but what’s wrong with adapting and changing that vision? Why is there a need to know exactly what you want before you even start? What’s wrong with being unsure? What’s wrong with being wrong?
I think the artist that is willing to morph and experiment and warp his ideas as he moves forward is the real artist. Knowing exactly what you want before you start is nothing but bravado and arrogance. Stepping onto a set and being cocksure of your intentions may inspire the confidence of others, but what if that confidence is misplaced? What if that self-importance is ultimately nothing but overconfidence?
Every time I hear an artist say they know exactly what they want, I see an artist unwilling to change and make things better. Somehow in their mind remaining committed to their vision is actually more important than the final result itself. To me humility is a virtue. Let me be unsure enough to allow further thought and exploration. Let my ideas change in order to produce the best result even if I have to cast the original vision aside. After all, knowing exactly what I want is not nearly as important as discovering exactly what I need.