Last week I wrote about the concept of: Don’t do what you don’t want to do. It was an idea that had struck me when I went to see Joel Hodgson’s Riffing Myself show last weekend. I had two more thoughts from that show and I want to touch on the next one this week.
During Joel’s show he spoke a lot about the things that influenced him growing up as a kid. He talked about being captivated by the artwork of Roger Dean. If you don’t know, Roger Dean was an artist who is probably best known for doing the artwork for the covers of several albums for the band Yes. Those far out, alien looking, landscapes? Those were by Roger Dean. When Joel was younger Roger Dean released a book called Visions. It collected a bunch of artwork to that point in his career, but not only did the book include the artwork, it also showed the process of the artwork. From pencils sketches, through refinements, to the finished project, Roger showed step by step how things were made. Roger Dean also introduced Joel to the concept of kitbashing, or taking different parts from different model kits and combining them together to create something new. A technique Joel would later use to build robots for a certain television show.
One part of the book that really captured Joel’s attention was a page where Roger showed the process he took to create the logo for the band Yes. The swooping, sort of intertwined, logo that the band still uses to this day. That page, that showed the evolution of the logo from start to finish in a series of different photos of drawings was a lightbulb moment for Joel. Until that point, he had never realized that finished products aren’t just instantly created.
During his talk, Joel said the phrase, “If it’s not perfect, it’s not done.” I later talked to him about this statement and clarified clarified a bit saying that nothing comes out perfect the first time. It takes work to get something right. There’s a lot of trial and error in working to get something right.
I was happy for this clarification because the word ‘perfect’ opens up a lot of troubling doors, in my opinion. I’ll write about the ‘quest for perfection’ in the weeks to come. But the point Joel is making here is, as I said above, art just doesn’t come out perfect immediately.
If you’re writing a song, very rarely is it finished on first pass. Same with writing a book, play or script. Painting, sculpting, the list goes on. Creating art doesn’t just come out as a finished product.
I will take this stance however, it’s it okay to continue to create as you are refining your process. My example for that is my podcast The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd. If you listen to first season episodes and compare them to season eight episodes there is a world of difference. The pacing is tighter, the sound quality is better, it’s just an overall better show. That’s because there was a huge learning curve in how to edit and create an episode over those eight seasons. I learned a lot about editing audio and it shows. Also I think my writing improved from season one to season eight.
In sticking with the topic of ‘nothing comes out done,’ I wouldn’t say those season one episodes weren’t done. I worked on them just as hard as I did season eight episodes. I was just better at the work in those later years.
I think the takeaway here is that it takes some time to create art. Nothing ever comes out done
Is the idea of ‘nothing ever comes out done’ true in your creative work? How long does it take for you to finally say, “That’s done, I’m moving on to the next piece?” Let me know in the comments below.