Monday, 3 May 2010

Under great white northern lights

I went with my son to see The White Stripes - Under Great White Northern Lights, the documentary about their tour of Canada. There were maybe eight other people in the entire cinema, which seemed a shame. It certainly deserved more viewers than that. It captured the excitement of live performance well, but it was the strange little gigs they did in schools and day centres that were most fascinating. It also showed what a facilitator music is when it comes to breaking down barriers.

There was a particularly interesting bit about creativity which I thought I'd share with those of you who haven't seen it. The concert footage is interspersed with clips from an interview with Jack and Meg (although amusingly Meg has to be sub-titled, she is so quiet - 'No one can hear a goddamn word your saying!' ). In reality it is an interview with Jack White.

Talking about recording the album, he said that basically the attitude was to turn up and do something - regardless of whether they were in the mood or particularity inspired. He likened it to when he was an upholsterer and had a more realistic work ethic whereby you did the best you could on any given day and accepted that.

I read something by Jeanette Winterson recently where she said she wasn't writing anything at the moment because 'you can't force it' or words to that effect. Well, a lot of us are not in a position where we can sit around and wait for the muse to turn up. We are contracted to publishers (if we are lucky) and we have mouths to feed and bills to pay. And in any case I'm not sure that the book is 'out there' and I'm waiting for it to arrive. The book is in me and I have to come up with strategies to get it out. That sounds more medical than I'd intended.

I agree with Jack White - there is a lot of nonsense spoken about creativity. Anyone who is any good at anything has worked hard to get there. A lot of what is involved in any art form is just plain hard graft. Sometimes you just have to put the hours in. That's not to say that sometimes writing doesn't feel effortless and easy, because it does (sometimes) and when it does you need to get as many words written as possible - because it ain't going to last.

But I think that attitude of just getting the stuff out there, however imperfect, is absolutely the right one.

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