Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Getting Out Of The Way

This is a critically important concept when you are creating something – in fact, your ability to be creative mandates that you turn off the critical part of your brain entirely and simply create like a child. If you can’t do this, you will never get out of the starting gate – and that’s a real shame, because we are all capable of creating something meaningful. And if it’s meaningful to you, chances are very good it will be meaningful to others as well.

Even for those of us who have spent a lifetime trying to be creative, it is almost always a struggle. One of the best examples of this I have ever seen came from an incredibly gifted musician I produced a record with. This guy was just transcendentally, undeniably gifted. I had the pleasure of playing some gigs with him, and I remember thinking “I have to produce a record of this guy.” I remember approaching him about it, and he told me something that left me dumbfounded. He confided that he was unable to record himself at all because he thought everything he tried to do sucked. Now this was someone who had a successful career as a sideman for some pretty well known artists, so clearly he understood he was a high level player. And yet, when he tried to record demos of his material, he couldn’t stand to listen to his own playing! He couldn’t “get out of the way” and see his own gifts, only his imagined shortcomings.

Because we had built a mutual respect and friendship from playing together, and shared an understanding and love for music, he trusted me. And this trust allowed him to let go, it gave him the freedom to just play without judgement. In fact, I would record several takes from him each session, and I wouldn’t even play them back. Instead, I would spend a few days listening to them, pick out the best performances, and edit and mix them. Only when he would come back for the next session would I then play him what he did the week before – but now they weren’t raw tracks – they sounded like a record – and he got it! Because I loved what was special about him, I knew when I captured it – and when he heard it, he knew it was undeniable. All I had done was give him the freedom to not be critical of his art, to just create freely and let me sort it out. I still think it was one of the best records I produced, because it caught the magic that was him.

I allowed him to “get out of the way” and let his art speak. We rarely have the luxury of having someone who can do this for us, so we usually have to do it for ourselves. Rest assured that it can, however, be done…