Chemical precipitation is the process of a solution transforming into a solid. It takes a lot of solution to get a little precipitate.
A process in one field sometimes shows up in other fields. This week, I want to look at some of those other fields where the precipitation process shows up.
Getting Precipitate Out Of An Enormous Amount Of Solution
The lawyer and grammarian Bryan Garner once asked David Foster Wallace about his writing process. Garner asked specifically about Wallace’s famous long essays—how you go about researching and organizing your thoughts? “I take a hundred times more notes than I need,” Wallace said. “My first draft usually approximates somebody in the midst of an epileptic seizure.” Wallace said it would usually take three or four drafts to start to get a real grasp of what he was writing about. “It’s not very economical in terms of time,” he said. “It is just doing it over and over and over again and throwing stuff away and then going back and trying it over again.” Wallace sums it up, “my process appears to be getting precipitate out of an enormous amount of solution.”
Two Hundred Years Worth of Man-Hours
In mid-1933, Walt Disney began thinking about creating the first ever full-length animated feature film. “We had a business meeting today for no good reason,” one employee wrote in May of that year. “However, it was interesting because Walt told us his idea of developing the story, ‘Snow White,’ and honestly, the way that boy can tell a story is nobody’s business…If it should turn out one tenth as good as the way he tells it, it should be a wow.” That’s the way Walt Disney Productions then operated—Walt had a vision, he’d try to communicate what was in his head to the hundreds of animators and artists working for him, and then they worked as long as it took to create exactly what Walt saw in his head. For Snow White, that took years. One animator worked for nearly a year and a half on a single scene…that was cut in the final edit. But from an enormous amount of solution, Walt Disney Productions got precipitate. Snow White premiered in 1937. At the end the audience erupted into a “thunderous ovation,” as one attendee said. Another said, “I could not help but feel that I was in the midst of motion picture history.” The critical reviewers were equally impressed. “It’s a classic,” one wrote. Another called Snow White “an authentic masterpiece.” And another put it “among the genuine artist achievements of this country.” When asked to what he attributes the movie’s success, Walt said it was a sheer technical achievement by his team. “No one person can take credit for the success of a motion picture,” he’d say. “It’s strictly a team effort.” The some six hundred employees drew, inked, and painted the quarter-million drawings that made up the one hour and twenty-three minute movie. In all, one biographer observes, the artists and animators put “two hundred years’ worth of man-hours” into Snow White.
How To Make 10 Good Songs
Rick Rubin is the producer behind many of the greatest albums since the early ‘80s. He’s worked Johnny Cash, Eminem, Adele, Kendrick Lamar, Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lizzo, Tom Petty, and on and on and on. Though his discography is pages long, when he’s working on an album, Rubin is in no rush. “I tend to believe overall in the quality of content over everything else,” Rubin said. “So we spend a great deal of time working on material long before we ever think about going into a recording studio.” Typically, an artist writes a batch of ten to twelve songs before playing them for Rubin. “When they play the songs for me, invariably the last two songs they’ve written are the best.” So Rubin tells them: you have two songs, go write more. Some artists get frustrated by this. Rubin tells them, “if you write 30 songs, there’s a better chance that the 10 on your album will be better than if you just write 10.” If you have an enormous amount of solution, there’s a better chance of getting some precipitate. Because of this lengthy pre-production process, Rubin said, “I often make records faster than a lot of other people. It usually has to do with how prepared we are in advance…It’s the pre-production time that really makes the difference. Sometimes that’s a couple of weeks, sometimes it’s a few months, sometimes it’s a year of getting ready to go into the studio and cut the whole album in a week.”
Distill Coffee Into Espresso
The comedy talk show Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj ran for forty episodes across six seasons. It won an Emmy, a Peabody Award, and two Webby Awards. When he’s asked about the initial idea for the show’s success, Minhaj says the same thing. “My ethos is like this,” he says, “people’s lives are hard. People are busy. And a lot of the stuff happening in the world is very esoteric and complicated. I see my job like this: my job is to distill coffee into espresso. For people who only have twenty minutes—they’re on the train heading home, they’ve got to get home to their kids, they’re going through some life shit—alright, here’s this complicated issue in twenty minutes. That’s what I think my job is: to take complicated things and make it simple so people can walk away after twenty minutes with a clear take and perspective.”
Get The Shit Water Out Of You
The singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran says creativity is like a dirty tap or faucet. “When you switch a dirty tap on,” Sheeran said, “it’s going to flow shit water out for a substantial amount of time. And then, clean water is going to start flowing.” When he was starting out, Sheeran said, “my songs were terrible. They were awful. But I got it out of me and the more and more you write…then you start flowing clean water and songs start getting better and better and better.” It takes a lot of man-hours to make an authentic masterpiece. It takes writing a lot of songs to get a few good ones. It takes a lot of coffee beans to get a strong shot of espresso. It takes a substantial amount of shit solution to get a little clean precipitate.