I recently asked myself, 'How often am I the master of what I do?' I was thinking about the kind of work I've been most energised about over the past five years or so, as a way of trying to bottle that enthusiasm and drive, so that I can return to that state of professional wellbeing as often as possible.
One thing I noticed was the projects that had rendered me sleepless with excitement had also been amongst the most risky and challenging work that I have done. Basically, where there has been the biggest prospect of failure ('failure' being relative, of course, what I actually mean is 'being made to look really silly and, possibly, incompetent') is where the drive and excitement has pushed hardest.
Below is a list of common factors that I believe were major contributory factors in me feeling great about my work:
1. When I was doing something which was, in some way, new to me.
2. When the initial creative concept was mine.
3. When the projects went through a stage of creative research and planning, before a single sound was recorded.
4. When the project(s) sought to engage a public audience directly.
5. When the projects were 'not for everybody', which is to say that they could either be described as contentious, highly subjective or, even, political.
6. When creative collaborators were on board in order to fully realise the project(s).
7. When the project(s) gained a limited amount of wider interest from the related field.
8. When I was required to convince others of my creative vision and ask them to follow it.
It seems that I am happiest in my work when each of these seven criteria are fulfilled, although I can still be happy (and, really, more often than not, I am) when only a handful of the above statements are true. But I didn't start thinking on this point to be happy in my work, rather to happiest, more often. To get the best out of myself and my work. This little reflective exercise shows that when I take on or devise a piece of work, I generally have a fair degree of control over many of the points listed. What I have to do is remember that fact, act upon it, and carry those same sensibilities over into as many aspects of my work as I can.