“Letting your mind play is the best way to solve problems.” – Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin & Hobbes
“It’s not working!”. Probably the most common statement about a problem among creative.
“Why isn’t it working?”. Probably the best statement about a problem ever uttered by a creative.
We were sitting there after something like 5 hours of trying to work the song out. We’d taken breaks, gone out to eat, taken a walk.
I told him to save the project under a new name. Then we started to just try shit out. We started moving sections around, changed the key, changed the drum samples, muted the vocals, tried different melodies, tried different effects etc etc.
“The song is shit”, he finally said.
“So, what do we do?” I asked.
“Kill it!”, he said shutting down the project and leaning back with in his chair. He put his hands behind his head and let out a puff of air.
“Well, that sucks… What now?” he asked.
“On to the next one, I guess!” I said with that Clintoneseque downward smile.
The producer had spent about 3 weeks on polishing the song and trying to figure out what the technical answer was. He hadn’t had a “stinker” in several months and had become accustomed to the work flow of going into the minutiae of just fixing the details.
He’d forgotten how to play around with the track to see if there were problems with the arrangement or other more “big picture” things.
So, he’d called me in to have a little look see and I could tell that it wasn’t on par with the stuff he’d sent me just a couple of weeks before. It was like watching the first little piggy showing his new 80 floor high rise made of straw. Yeah, you’re gonna end up as bacon, buddy.
Now, I could’ve gone in and just said: “That sucks, stop what you’re doing and evacuate immediately!”
It would’ve saved us time but there might also be a chance that I was wrong. The guy’s proved me wrong on 2 other tracks before so I wasn’t about to go for number 3!
Instead, we played “Guess the Problem”. He got some ideas for other songs out of it and he finally came to the conclusion that the material wasn’t up to snuff. I trust his feelings on it.
He could’ve kept scanning for answers that were readily available to him at the time. Instead, with a little help, he zoomed out and checked to see if there was something fundamentally wrong with the picture.
It’s as applicable to any craft as well as life in general.
I had a leaking pipe under the sink in the bathroom. It wasn’t a big bother, I just put down a rag to absorb the water and wiped the floor every now and again.
Now, this could’ve gone on for a long, long time. Fortunately I had company and they bumped into the sink which loosened the pipe so that the leaking actually became a whole thing.
This lead to me having to bring out the tools and fixing the problem that had been going on for at least a year. How long did it take to fix? Less than 15 minutes including cleaning the floor.
That’s what happens when we get a little too comfortable. We take the first solution that comes to mind and run with it. We might even fix it but it doesn’t take long before it breaks down again.
We need to take a longer look at it, ask better questions and investigate further,
Here’s great keynote by Gary Vaynerchuk, even if I don’t agree with everything he says. He does, however, challenge some of my beliefs and expresses some opinions that we all can put to good use. Caveat auditor!
Gary Vaynerchuk @ USC – 2015 Keynote – What You Need to Know About Entrepreneurship