"Once I asked the right questions … it helped me lock into the rest of the record. You know it when you catch a wave."
— Bruce Springsteen
Inside the Creating Process With Bruce Springsteen and Pam Houston
Many people fail to create the results they care about because they give up too soon. They try for a while, but, when hit by adversity, setbacks or failure, they quit.
Or they prejudge the amount of time it "should" take to create a result, and, if they don't complete the result in that time, they feel frustrated. To get relief from that feeling, they move on to another result.
But creating something that matters takes whatever time it's going to take. And there will be adversity and setbacks along the way. You will fail at some of the things you try, particularly in the begining of creating a result.
The key to successful completion is to take those things in stride. See setbacks and adversity as opportunities to learn from your own experience. See failure merely as feedback. Learn from it, too. Try, try again.
As I've written in the series of articles on "getting gritty," successful results creators demonstrate "grit" — passion-driven practice and perseverance. If there's a formula for success, it reads, "Outstanding Results = Skill and Talent Times Effort." Effort multiplies skill and talent. Focused, persisent, deliberate practice — for as long as it takes! — is the secret ingredient to success.
"But", coaching clients sometimes ask me, "what if I practice and practice and still don't complete my result? Won't I have wasted all that time?"
No! Because you will have increased your skill and talent and learned much that will be useful in whatever you create next. And what you did when you thought you were wasting time may well turn out to useful in a different situation.
Springsteen's Effort Pays Off, But Not In The Way He'd Imagined
For example, consider this story that singer/songwriter Bruce Sprinsteen told Jon Stewart in an interview in the March 29, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone. They were chatting about Springsteen's new Album Wrecking Ball. Steward asked Springsteen how he translated his political ideas into songs.
"Its not something you can do when you push a button," replied the songwriter. "You sit down, and if you're lucky, the planets have aligned to the point where that anger and the craft you learned combines with whatever that mysterious X factor is that allows you scoop some of it up — and it turns into a piece of music. Before this record, I recorded almost 40 songs for another record I was working on that had nothing to do with any of this, and at one point, I threw it out. I said, "this is the wrong voice for me right now. . . . I spent almost a year writing and recording it. But the songs had nothing to with what was going on out there at all. . . . So I put that aside and cut this record, basically 10 songs in 10 days."
The other songs on the other record are still there. They're quieter, solo songs. Someday, Bruce may find that the time is right to re-record them. But, even if he never does, he didn't waste his time. He had to get through that project before he realized it wasn't right for these times, that it didn't answer the "right questions."
"Once I asked the right questions, the questions of "We Take Care of Our Own," he told Stewart,"it helped me lock into the rest of the record. You know it when you catch a wave."
So putting in time and effort that didn't directly lead to the record he first intended, helped make the writing and recording of Wrecking Ball much easier.
Pam Houston Tosses A Novel, Then Writes An Award-Winning Book Of Short Stories
Here's another example, of how a creator's apparently unsuccessful time and effort actually led to success in a different effort.
Pam Houston, author of Cowboys Are My Weakness and Contents May Have Shifted shocked a packed writers conference when she told us she'd tossed out 450 pages novel she couldn't get to work.
"Wasn't that awful," asked a concerned conferencee. "Weren't you devastated?"
"No," said Houston. "I felt liberated, free. What I'd written wasn't working. I'd given it my best and still couldn't get it to work, so it had to go."
Houston then turned her attention to a book of linked short stories that became the award-winning book Waltzing the Cat.
All Practice, All Your Efforts Are Useful
These professional creators know that no effort is ever wasted. At the very least, it increases your creating chops and makes the next project easier. And, you never now, we still might hear that Bruce Springsteen has released a quiet, reflective album based on the 40 songs he can't use at this time.