History writes that only after some thousand plus attempts, Thomas Edison successfully created a light bulb. Motivational speakers often marvel the question, “What if he’d given up after only a hundred tries, five hundred, one thousand?” No doubt wisdom resides therein. A close examination of top innovators regardless of contribution almost always yields a similar scenario. A creative vision is vital, but it’s not worth too much without perseverance. Willing to do whatever it takes, successful people transform mere ideas into reality.
For the oppressed creature, the above anecdote offers an uplifting promise of self-actualization; it rewards toils of labor, enough to calm a tortured soul, bring forth light, a sideways smile.
Meanwhile, back at Earth, I’m witness to quite a contrasting constant at play in a realm of music, and, in such a way, that no one will prove, not by the precision of science nor a collective gaggle of philosophers. No, there’s probably more gleamed from the adherent gamble of a murder of crows.
Producing music worthy of wide acclaim, fame and fortune is a process having little to do with hard knocks and perseverance. Sure, a composer must possess at least a modest range of ability and theory, but great musical works are almost always simplistically simple, arriving unannounced, unplanned for, fruits gathered from an elusive orchid devoid of a long laboring harvest.
Multi-Grammy awards recipient Mike Post, known for theme songs including Law & Order, Quantum Leap, Magnum P.I. and The Rockford Files, has accumulated over six thousand hours of television credit. Add to that, somewhere in the world, every minute of everyday, at least two of his songs buzz airwaves. When asked his secret in a 2009 interview with Chelsea Cannell, Post remarked, “I don’t sweat over it. If it doesn’t happen in a couple of seconds it’s weird.” Post confessed to “mostly feeling like an empty vessel,” not an active participant in the creation process.
Commonplace, remarks like these teem art circles, yet rarely a topic of any serious debate within the music community. Hans Zimmer to Pete Townsend, Michael Jackson to Edward Van Halen, all alluded to such phenomena, saying that written extremely quickly, the best songs took about as much time as guzzling a Longo Espresso. Look outside of music and you’ll find the same strange laws at work among leading movie producers and writers. All the while songwriting classes abound; practice makes perfect, right?
So, I suppose, instead of crafting thousands of light bulbs that don’t work, maybe an artist should pursue a delicate exposure to a mystique expanse of creative destiny. At the very least, sit back and don’t sweat it, and know that unlike Edison, perseverance may leave you in the dark.
I’d be interested in hearing what you think…