Tag: creative process

Last night I finished watching It Might Get Loud, a Davis Guggenheim film about a single instrument: the electric guitar. The film features three electric guitar virtuosos, each with differing styles and from separate generations: Jack White, from The White Stripes, The Edge, from U2, and Jimmy Page, lead guitarist for Led Zeppelin. During the film each guitarist shared about his own creative approach. I was fascinated by The Edge’s description of U2′s creative process. He said the band will spend days in the studio slogging through various soundscapes. Most days are long, tiring, and frustrating. It is common for the four band members to end the day with absolutely nothing to show for it. But if they remain committed to this arduous, mundane process long enough something brilliant begins to emerge.

We don’t need to be a platinum-selling artist to recognize this kind of brilliance. A sprig of green emerges in your garden. A child demonstrates she is beginning to understand long-division. A friend finally receives the kudos from his employer that he’s always deserved.

The Edge said the only reason U2 ever arrives at brilliant musical moments is because of one thing: commitment. As a whole they are committed to showing up and working hard. Over the span of three decades the world-renown band has learned to trust this process. If they show up, work hard, and engage with and trust each other and the process, something beautiful can and will happen.

Early in our process with others, consciously or unconsciously, we identify what we would consider brilliant. You want your son to learn to play Moonlight Sonata, for example. This is a good and worthy goal. But committing to the creative process is difficult. Showing up is not sufficient. You need to be engaged. Then you can know you’ll be around to behold the brilliance that finally shines through. He strings together a few bars. It’s not the whole song, but it sure doesn’t sound like Yanni. So you stay with it. He strings a few more bars together and eventually he can play the entire Sonata, and with feeling.

Most aspects of the creative process encourage us to bail out. Exit doors flank us each step of the way. Committing to stay with and trust the process can seem to border on the absurd. Why commit to something so frustrating? Because some part of us knows better. We know something shot through with goodness awaits us. This is why we commit, show up, and engage with the people and pastimes we care about. What makes U2′s creative process meaningful and productive are the same elements that make for rewarding artful endeavors and rich, enduring relationships. We may not make music. But whatever our interests and calling, through commitment, engagement, patience and trust something extraordinary will stumble out of the fog to greet us.

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