Creativity at its best is a matter of following and leading. I learned about “following and leading” from InterPlay where this is one of the basic forms or practices. The rules are simple enough: participants chose to either follow or lead at any given moment. When leading, I initiate. I start from nothing. When following, I imitate. Since no imitation is ever perfect, I can accentuate this by moving my imitation to a different plane/pitch, by creating a variation of what I observed in the leader, or by reacting to what I saw. (These options of imitation, variation or reaction were taught to me by Randall Huntsberry and Cheryl Cutler.) Following is listed first because ecstatic following can be more enlivening to the practice than leading.
This translates to art whether I am collaborating with others — such as co-writing songs, etc. — or working on a solo project. Obviously, when my art (or marketing, for example) is being created with others, I learn where I need to lead and where it’s best for me to follow. Different partnerships will require a different set of following and leading guidelines that I will create by virtue of the relationship that develops.
Following and Leading without a human collaborator
If the project is completely solo (or even for the bits of it that can be done on my own), I still follow and lead. In this case, the following and leading have to do with the artwork itself; I lead in creating it and then I let the creation speak to me and inform me how best to follow it to an artistic pathway or eventually: its conclusion. I can use imitation, variation or reaction in my following of the artwork through creative listening. In other words, I am partnering with the art that I am creating.
Following and leading with my own creativity and creative output turn out to be an incredible process. The creative process can often be seen in the resulting artwork. In this case, the creative output becomes part of the feedback loop that allows me to make what I am creating. For example, in creating the music and video known as “Return of the Light Beings“, I went through several iterations of both the video and the music because each kept informing the other (and therefore me as the follower) over the period of the project. (You can catch a tiny glimpse of this by comparing the music that accompanies the video to the standalone musical version.)
Have you experienced following your creation either as a natural process or a conscious practice? How did it work for you? Did it change the final artwork?
5 thoughts on “Following and Leading (part 3 of 5)”
Thank you for this. I hadn’t reflected on either directing or writing as a form of following and leading until I read this, but both are.
The interesting relationship between following and leading in my directing work deserves a blog post of its own, but the spark I enjoy most in rehearsal is when I give a direction, the actor follows it (but not as I envisioned it), and I see a possibility I had never seen before that appears completely necessary with the additional material contributed by the actor.
The dance of writing and editing is much like the process you describe in making the video.
Nice, Kate! I got chills thinking of your application of following and leading to directing theatre and writing. (Since I rarely edit my writing, I can’t really speak to that.)
Your mixing of artistic media as metaphor is also really attractive to me: “the dance of writing…” for example flows so beautifully.
In short, Kate, you are definitely an inspiration to me. Thanks!
I’m all for mutual inspiration.
I hope all this writing is setting you up for a fabulous new year!
I hope and think that it is setting me up for at least one fabulous project. If it translates into the whole year, I’ll take that, too.
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