Juan, my artist, is the sweetest. Unlike many artists, he’ll do revision without any complaints. He never gets defensive. The thing is, he’s able to capture the vision I have in mind and redo my revision in one shot. The only time I got stuck with Juan was when I had him draw a scene of Beverly Enright having a nervous breakdown. It is a very fantastical scene where the reality of her world blurs. So he had to all these alien spaceships and shit floating out of her head as she’s going crazy…and it all happens on prom night.
Now, I wanted her prom hair to be 1980s perfect. This was the only time I fussed over minute detail. I believe I had him revise her hair three times—which is a lot considering that it’s just hair (not like a action shot or complicated blocking). The third time, I wrote him a note apologizing that the hair wasn’t right and that I was sorry to obsess over it. I told him it was extremely important to me that her hair emulated the 1980s for that scene.
He wrote me back and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll edit whatever you want.” When he gave me back Beverly’s final hairdo, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted—but I understood that it was stylistically the best of his interpretation. I approved it, not because I settled, but because I accepted that this was an artistic style and altering that would be like installing an aftermarket spoiler on an expensive car. When an artist does something and can’t get out of the loop, you can’t push to alter them. You can’t make a rock musician sing opera for instance—unless he’s Freddie Mercury. So once you push the envelope to where you breach their style, you back off and admire what they do do very well.
I enjoy collaboration very much because I learn how to work with people from different professions. It is like learning a new language. When I work with illustrators, I figure out their workflow and how the process will go between us. That’s one of the first things I ask when I collaborate: “What’s your workflow?”
I always ask this so that I get on the right footing, so that I don’t overstep boundaries, so that I can avoid miscommunication or misgivings. I love communication because it sets the stage for what appears to be a marriage. If you don’t set this up front, you will end up with either an unhappy marriage or divorce.
Not a lot of people are great at communication. Some people can’t say No. Some people can only say No. You have to figure out the communication rules before you can begin.
With illustrators, I can always tell by the art they give me if they had a stressful week. Without them telling me, I can tell that they’re doing other projects at the same time and things are getting whacky. I can tell that they are just meeting a deadline but not producing at top quality or that they even care.
I go through this too. And that is why I delay things. I won’t give my editor notes until I can focus and give quality feedback (even on his emails). What makes things smooth is communication.
If you don’t communicate, it’s like turning your back while the faucet, the car, or shopping cart is running away. If you can’t control the forces of gravity, you control communication and it grabs hold of that gravity.
In collaborating with people, I figured out what makes a marriage work and not work. In business, to do good business, the best marriages are founded upon relationships. You cannot have those relationships if you have habits of communicating with people only when it’s advantageous, and neglecting communication when prospects appear unfavorable. The opportunity that appears unfavorable may turn favorable if you have good habits of communication. This is what separates amateurs from professionals. There are professionals who act like amateurs all their lives but despite their success, they will never develop integrity due to bad communication habits. It’s the integrity that makes a person professional and this naturally makes them good sales people.
It takes more energy to get a new relationship, a new partner, a new sale, a new gig than it does to make a slight adjustment of keeping a habit of proper follow-up. The follow-up thing is a deal breaker for people seeking to have a relationship. I’m one of those people that judges character by the way a person communicates. I will not go further with anyone regardless of their skills, reputation, or talent if they lack in communication follow-up. If you date somebody that always tells you “next week” or not at all, you are bound to be in a dysfunctional relationship. That’s why every professional marriage begins with communication and falls apart where a deficit in communication creeps up. Marriages are tested upon faithfulness in human relationships.
Faithfulness in the business sense means consistency, henceforth reliability, just like the reliable boyfriend. Sticking by this simple rule, it is very easy to dump bad working relationships to forge better ones.
The funny thing is, it takes less power to communicate than it does to lift tons of work off your shoulders. Yet people prefer to lift tons (or drop tons of opportunities) due to the oversight and importance of such a minor weightless thing, like a follow-up. Basically, like dating, when you don’t follow-up, it means you don’t give a shit. No matter how busy you are, or if you’re in bed dying from pneumonia, no excuses will mend that unconscious “break up.”
It’s surprising to me how many people turn their backs to follow-up. It’s like letting your shopping cart full of groceries roll away. All that time shopping for relationships crashed into a corner. Communication controls gravity. It really does.