The other day, I was listening to an interview of twenty-one-time Tony Award winning Director-Producer Hal Prince. If it was on Broadway and you’ve heard of it, he probably was involved or nearby! He was explaining a concept that he felt was essential for all directors to understand: Success vs failure.
And I think the idea is so powerful that it extends to all artistic endeavors – writing – cinematography – acting – music – dance – painting. You name it.
it seems one day half-way through Hal’s legendary career on Broadway, he had a show open, or rather open and then quickly close. He was very depressed, as you would expect. His long-time wife asked him if he was proud of the show? He was, very proud! It was some of his best work. Then, she reasoned, the show was a personal creative success – even though it was a financial flop.
Her point of view is a powerful perspective for artists to understand and master, especially in our culture that so often equates success with a lot of money.
Success or failure is a creative evaluation. Hit or flop – a financial one.
Thus, as artists and humans we need to differentiate between whether something is a FINANCIAL hit or a FINANCIAL flop. And, that is a different thing than whether the CREATIVE undertaking was a CREATIVE success or a CREATIVE failure.
This means it is possible for something to be a financial hit and a creative failure or the reverse, a financial flop and creative success. Of course we all dream of a financial hit and a creative success, but that is not necessary to achieve for us to feel good about ourselves as creative artists contributing to the world.
Understand that when evaluating whether something is a success or failure, you are evaluating whether it is a CREATIVE success or CREATIVE failure. Whether YOU think YOU were successful at accomplishing what YOU set out to do – and that is a different evaluation from what the critics say and a very different evaluation than whether it was a FINANCIAL hit or flop.
If you see all your endeavors through Mrs. Prince’s Hit vs Flop and Success vs Failure matrix, you’ll keep a better perspective on your work as an artist.