Today I’d like to talk about credit. Not the kind of credit you need to buy a house or a car, but the credit that you see when you first open a book or watch a movie. Nope, I’m talking about the credits that typically come from working on a project either alone or with someone else.
As I talked about earlier this week, I mentioned how important it is to look at the non-financial methods of how you feel validated about your writing. I think it goes without saying that this is a common desire for many writers, and I feel that there is a way we can help each other out. Giving someone else credit for the work they do is a great way of supporting your fellow scribe, because credit is free.
In my travels to various conventions, I’ve met quite a few “B”-list actors and stunt folk that have been kind enough to explain to me what it’s like working on various sets. One of these actresses (who shall remain nameless for privacy reasons) once told me how she doubled for an “A”-list actress in a well-known action movie. For whatever reason, the “A”-lister proclaimed that she did her own stunts to the media, which is not an uncommon thing for actors and actresses to do. Unfortunately, in this case the claim wasn’t true but there was no appropriate way for anyone involved to go and correct the mistake. Years later, the stunt double still remembers the claim and (you guessed it) will probably never forget it. What did the “A”-lister do wrong?
Acting is, undoubtedly, a highly competitive field that requires a lot of strategy and public relations know-how. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that any actor (or actress) might make claims that are a little unreasonable from time to time in order to gain notoriety to further their career. I often think of the quote that the Harry Potter character Gilderoy Lockhart when he said: “Celebrity is as celebrity does.” The challenge here, though, is that the claim negatively affected another person in the craft. Hindsight may be twenty-twenty, but the “A”-lister would have lost nothing by giving credit where credit was due because someone was there to know the truth. And the truth, my fellow writers, is very contagious–especially in this age of electronic communication.
In our quest to build our portfolios, resumes, and lists of publications, we may often forget what is going on all around us. We may not remember that when the podcast interviewer Skypes us, there are other people we should point out. We may unintentionally omit a name or even a small “Thank You” to the people who help us with our work when we sit in front of the camera, because we are so excited that someone is finally noticing what it is we do.
Now, we may forget to give credit for other reasons, too. Maybe we’ve had a falling out with a fellow writer, or maybe we can’t stand the fact that they’ve gotten that elusive contract faster than we did. In my opinion, this is not contemptable–this is understandable because it’s hard for any writer to quantify success. When we see someone else publishing a book or reaching a milestone that’s part of our goals, it’s very natural to feel envious of their achievements. The point I’m trying to make here, is that scrutinizing other writer’s careers can be quite destructive because you’ll waste more time worrying about Writer A and Writer B when you should be writing.
I don’t believe that anyone reading this blog wants to be regarded as an arrogant writer who is hard to work with. I also don’t think that people intentionally commit these types of oversights; we often get caught up in the moment because we’re passionate about what we do. However, when you forget to give credit because someone helped you out in a substantial way, you are unknowingly hurting your own career.
By not publicly saying “Thank You” and taking all the credit on a project that someone else has worked on, you instantly put yourself in a bad light. Nine times out of ten, you’ll end up looking like a fool, especially when that other writer can prove what they contributed to your project. Some may never go that far but, like my above example, they’ll never, ever forget it. That may one day come back to haunt you, and you’ll never know when it will.
Even though credit doesn’t cost a thing–I feel that it’s the most precious gift you can give to another writer. What better way to encourage and foster healthy relationships with your colleagues than to give credit where credit is due?