Sunday, December 9, 2012

Jack White and The Philosophy of Constriction

Interesting to see how Jack White has become The Power of Limitations guru. (Google it: This may yet be his greatest legacy.) If it were his whim he could probably tour the concept into a self-help empire. (Thankfully, it's not.) The greatest product of the experiment that was The White Stripes may've been how it's stripped-down architecture demanded a creative Zen—simple resources ardently applied. In The Whtie Stripes Method, every gesture and expression required fullness to operate at optimum capacity. Aside from the band's quality and execution––which I think we can all agree were some of the best of the ought tens––the experiment itself was a noble one. Aside from Jack's passion, which was decidedly more acute than most of his peers, The White Stripes had used the same formulas and three chord basics as seen at any coffee house open mic or street corner busker the world over. The difference being that Jack's chords produced Seven Nation Army.

The moral: If you can't do it with a thrift shop guitar, buzzing amp, and your dilettante girlfriend on drums, don't bother. Unless you do it because you can't NOT do it, surrender now. If you're not creating because you can't find the time or energy or space, your equipment or resources aren't up to the task of your grand vision, then give up. You're a fraud. But, if your writing/art/music/dance/acting teacher thinks you can't but think you must, you may just be onto something: Maybe not yet, but eventually. But first: Bleeding, sweating, and crying. What'd you expect, it is war after all (to paraphrase Picasso).

The late Charles Bukowski made a similar point if a bit more abstractly:

So You Want to Be a Writer

If it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.
Unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.
If you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don't do it.
If you're doing it for money or
don't do it.
If you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.
If you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
If it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
If you're trying to write like somebody
forget about it.
If you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.
If it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

If you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.

Don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
The libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don't add to that.
Don't do it.
Unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.
Unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

When it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

There is no other way.

And there never was.

Maybe not gospel but true enough. Don't do it unless you mean it.

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