Full disclosure: I’m not a huge White Stripes fan. I like a few of their songs, but I never got super into them. But a friend recently passed this video on to me, and not only does it give me extra appreciation for their music, it gives me a lot of respect for singer(/songwriter/guitarist/etc) Jack White.
He talks about dreaming of being able to record an album, dreaming of being able to play on stage. Once he finally achieved those things, he could have probably had a long, lucrative career coasting along, making so-so music and relying on his earlier hits to make up for later mediocrity. Instead, he came up with a unique way of keeping the hunger there, of keeping the immediacy. He limits himself. He makes things hard to do when performing live. Little things that no musician of his stature should have to endure, he endures. And he does it to keep things raw and fresh and real.
So…this all relates to writing, right? I think it does. I’m going through a revision right now, and I’m coming to realize sometimes I just coast by. I write something that’s adequate and move on because it would be too hard to stretch and try to go down a certain road. But when I do that I end up leaving so much behind that could be better.
Doing hard things makes us better, and working hard makes us better.
As Jack says, “Inspiration and work ethic ride right next to each other…Not every day of your life are you gonna wake up and the clouds are gonna part and rays from heaven are gonna come down and you’re gonna write a song from it. I mean sometimes you just get in there and just force yourself to work and maybe something good will come out.”
Good will come of it, but we have to push ourselves. It’s the difference between telling an adequate story and an exceptional story.
Which one do you want to tell?