The New Propaganda © Jeffery Saddoris

Create & Release 12: Half the Battle

I saw Nine Inch Nails for the first time in 1989 at a little club in Atlanta, Georgia. They were the opener for Peter Murphy and while I had never heard the name Trent Reznor before, by the end of the show I was a fan and have been ever since.

A couple weeks ago, a video popped up in my feed called Halsey x Trent Reznor x Atticus Ross In Conversation from Capital Records. I’m not really familiar with Halsey, but I am a huge fan of Trent and Atticus, so I clicked. The beginning of the conversation was Halsey telling the story of how she came to work with Trent and Atticus on her new record, but that’s not really the point of this particular story. What is the point is something that Trent said when he was talking about how he and Atticus work together. He said, “We have a pretty strict work schedule of every weekday we get together for X amount of time, and we’ve learned over time that showing up is half the battle — we’ve learned the discipline of getting things done.”  Now the whole idea that showing up is half the battle is really nothing new, but hearing it from someone like Trent Reznor is strangely reaffirming of the notion that making takes effort. Making work is work, even for someone at Trent’s level. There’s a common misconception around creativity and inspiration — something that I’ve spoken and written about at length — but the odds of a brilliant, fully realized idea just coming to you by osmosis are pretty slim. Does it happen? Sure. Paul McCartney has said Let it Be came to him in a dream, but that’s the exception not the rule. For most of us, creativity means showing up with the intention to make something regardless of whether or not we know what it is, but we go through the process to see where it leads. That’s absolutely the way it works for me, whether I’m painting or writing or talking to someone on a podcast. I can prepare and do research or, in the case of my paintings, build a digital pre-viz of what I want it to look like. But once I am in motion — in the process — the work has a tendency to tack in directions I didn’t think about when I started. That’s what I love most — it’s not the work as an end product, it’s the work as in doing the work.

For me, art is a verb not a noun. It’s one of the reasons that my flagship podcast is called Process Driven. Process is where I live. That said, process alone isn’t enough. Process has to be in service of the work. If the work doesn’t say what you want it to say, either to you or to an audience, the process can easily become irrelevant. You have to show up to do the work, but you also have to show up with something to say.

How do approach your making? Do you wait for inspiration, or does it have to find you working? 
Hit the comments and let’s talk about it.

I started reading science fiction in junior high school, but it wasn’t until my freshman year in high school that I really considered myself a fan of the genre. One of the series that seemed to be required reading for any true sci-fi reader was Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy. Fast forward to 2021 and Apple is bringing Foundation to television. If the trailers are any indication, it looks pretty fantastic. The visuals look appropriately epic, but what also stood out was the music, which is being composed by Bear McCreary, who I first discovered as the composer for Ronald D. Moore’s remake of Battlestar Galactica. He also did the music for The Walking Dead and a ton of other projects. Syfy Wire shared a video of the main title theme, with a little context around the making of it. According to McCreary, “Inspired by the ‘psychohistory’ of the source material, I wanted to incorporate mathematics into the score. Using custom computer software, I crafted an ‘orchestra’ of sampled instruments playing dazzling patterns of algorithmically generated musical notes that would be virtually impossible for human beings to play.”

I love great interviews and great interviewers, and Dick Cavett was one of the best. I recently came across a terrific interview he did in 1971 with Bette Davis, who I think was just one of the classic Hollywood actors. She was an absolute legend, who not only passed on Gone with the Wind, but at one point took Warner Brothers to court for giving her bad parts, which she felt were stifling her growth as an artist. “Only directors and good scripts could give me a career,” she said. “I couldn’t do it with the junk that’s all.”

One of my favorite artists — actually, he may be my favorite — is being celebrated with a new show at the Pace gallery in NYC. According to the Pace, “Robert Rauschenberg: Channel Surfing focuses on the renowned American artist’s response to the rise of global media culture from the early 1980s to the mid-2000s, spotlighting his return to painting after a decade-long hiatus from the medium.” If that’s not right up my alley, I don’t know what is. If you’re unfamiliar with Rauschenberg’s work, start here. Between this show and the fact that Hadestown is back on Broadway with the original cast, it looks like I need to plan a trip to New York.

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