One of the things Thomas Fink and I talked about on the telephone yesterday was a Malcolm Gladwell piece called "Creation Myth" which appeared in the New Yorker. Our conversation focused on this passage:
Simonton’s point is that there is nothing neat and efficient “The more successes there are,” he says, “the more failures there are as well” — meaning that the person who had far more ideas than the rest of us will have far more bad ideas than the rest of us, too. This is why managing the creative process is so difficult. The making of the classic Rolling Stones album “Exile on Main Street” was an ordeal, Keith Richards writes in his new memoir, because the band had too many ideas. It had to fight from under an avalanche of mediocrity: “Head in the Toilet Blues,” “Leather Jackets,” “Windmill,” “I Was Just a Country Boy,” “Bent Green Needles,”… At one point, Richards quotes a friend, Jim Dickinson, remembering the origins of the song “Brown Sugar”: “I watched Mick write the lyrics. . . . He wrote it down as fast as he could move his hand. I’d never seen anything like it. He had one of those yellow legal pads, and he’d write a verse a page, just write a verse and then turn the page, and when he had three pages filled, they started to cut it. It was amazing.” Richards goes on to marvel, “It’s unbelievable how prolific he was.” Then he writes, “Sometimes you’d wonder how to turn the fucking tap off. The odd times he would come out with so many lyrics, you’re crowding the airwaves, boy.” Richards clearly saw himself as the creative steward of the Rolling Stones …, and he came to understand that one of the hardest and most crucial parts of his job was to “turn the fucking tap off,” to rein in Mick Jagger’s incredible creative energy.
Our conversation had to do really with our individual and collaborative practices. Maestro Fink and I are engaged in yet another collab--we're 10 poems into this one.
Individual creative work, let alone collaborative work, is messy. We're going to fail. Probably as often, or more often, than we succeed.
"Patience is a virtue," the platitude goes. Irritating to hear, for sure, when the comment is directed at you. However, nothing could be truer in terms of my own experience.
Persist. Be stubborn in the face of all the things, forces, people, voices who would bring you down.