Make What You Want To Exist
Rick Rubin loved going to hip-hop clubs. He began making hip-hop albums because the hip-hop albums at the time didn’t sound like the music in the clubs. Then and now, he says, “I just try to make what I want to exist.” Making what you want to exist—that is the theme of this SIX at 6…
The Movie Brats
George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, and Martin Scorsese are collectively referred to as “The Movie Brats.” The four friends met in the mid-1960s and went on to make some of the most commercially successful movies ever. George Lucas said this is the secret to their success “We all love movies. We weren’t doing it to get rich. We never thought we were ever going to get rich or be successful…We just love movies, and we make the kind of movies that we’d love to see. We come up with an idea and go, ‘Oh, I’d like to see that.’ And then we say, ‘Okay, let’s just make it.’”
Would You Laugh?
When comedians ask him for advice, the comedian Pete Holmes says, “Ask yourself: Would you laugh? … If you were an audience member during your set, would you laugh?”
Would You Go See You?
In May of 1964, on a folk music tour around England, Bob Dylan decided he was going to quit playing concerts full of folk songs. Dylan told a friend, “I play these concerts and I ask myself: ‘Would you come to see me tonight?’ and I’d have to truthfully say: ‘No, I wouldn’t come. I’d rather be doin’ something else, really I would.’ That something else is rock. I’d rather see me do rock.” A little over a year later, in June 1965, Dylan recorded Like A Rolling Stone. A month later, at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, Dylan plugged in an electric guitar and performed Like A Rolling Stone for the first time. The folk enthusiasts in the crowd booed and yelled things like, “Get rid of the electric guitar,” and “We want the old Dylan!” Dylan shrugged it all off. “That’s their problem,” he said. “For me, it’s [to] live my own life the best way I can. Find out what I’m all about.” Two months later, Dylan played a rock set during a concert at Carnegie Hall. It was the set he would want to see himself do, but this time and from then on, the crowd loved it too. “Knew it wouldn’t take ‘em long to catch on,” he said.
Work Backwards From What You Want To See
Shortly after James Cameron submitted a cut of Avatar to 20th Century Fox, he met with the studio executives. (At one point, there’s a 3-minute flying scene). “Why is the flying scene so long?” one executive asked. “It doesn’t advance the narrative or the character.” Cameron replied, “You’re right on every count. You’ve ticked every box, like a good studio executive…But guess what? I want to see it…And if I want to see it, my cognitive leap is there are going to be other people that want to see it.” This is how Cameron approaches everything he makes, he said. “The way I write is I work backwards from the shit I want to see.” Many great artists say some version of that—that they work backwards from what they want to see, read, or hear. This tends to work because great creators tend to also be great consumers—great writers love reading, great musicians love listening to music, and great filmmakers love watching movies. Cameron, for instances, said that, growing up, he watched movies “like a rabid maniac.” Consuming great work calibrates your internal gauge for great work. So then when you make something—if you think it is great, you can make the cognitive leap that others will think so too. “It turned out,” Cameron said after a test screening of Avatar, “[the flying] is what the audience loved the most.”
What You Make Is Who You Become
Of course, the cognitive leap that other people will like what you like doesn’t always work out. Still, best to default to making things that you yourself like. As the legendary designer Paula Scher likes to say: above all else, “Make the things that you want to make…Because what you make is who you become.” So if you don’t like what you’re making, writing, working on, or playing…you might not like who you become.