Creativity Needs Process

In an article in The Red Bulletin (vol. 6 Issue 9) this month, Lars Ulrich, drummer for the thrash metal band Metallica, offered three tips on How to Become a Rock Star in 2017. Being a creative person myself, I’m always interested in how other creative people pursue their creativity through process. Of course, he’s speaking as both a creative musician who, I assume, has a singular passion for his instrument and the sounds it makes, but he’s also speaking as a member of a band who collectively have to find a mutual process in order to stay relevant, make loads of money, and fulfill their need to continue head-banging into retirement.

Bearing all that in mind, he gives three bits of advise: a) Find like-minded people who are as passionate as you are, b) Stay true to your own vision and ideals, and c) Remain committed. As I read the article, and I should tell you that I’m a giant Metallica fan from my teenage years and would read and watch (and own) anything Metallica, I was looking for that portion of the article that asked about process. I’ve seen their movie Some Kind of Monster (2004, Paramount Pictures) and that was probably the best presentation of what a collaborative environment looks like for those guys.

Now let me say that I know these are just sound-bites. His answer doesn’t hold any real wisdom or thought (at least, I don’t really think it does [benefit of the doubt]) so I have to ask whether these are three things that all rock bands need, or is this a pretty standard template for any group that decides to work and create together? An acting troupe, a film crew, or a circus. They are all groups of people that want to showcase their individual creativity in a collective medium, and make money in the process.

And before I go any further, I don’t disparage the pursuit of creativity for financial gain. I’m sure some will read this and turn their noses up against the notion that art (or a product born from a creative process or outlet) should somehow be above the dirty medium of money. But let’s face it, nobody ever goes into business to lose money! Nobody! So, give people a break and allow them to be authentic in their medium and support themselves and their family in the process. Wouldn’t that be a novel idea!

Finally, what I wanted to say, was that I think the three points Lars gives us is a generic answer to a question that has been asked of him for quite a number of years. What I’d really like is for Lars and James and Kirk and Robert to take some time in their waning years (sorry for the sharp jab, boys) and write down their thoughts about the creative process and how, a) they pursue the self-satisfaction portion of their craft, and b) how they find the collaborative process affects that personal desire for satisfaction.

In the end, I’m a sucker for process. I want to know how YOU do it. I want to know what YOU find inspirational or strategic or confining or liberating. I’m a student of process.

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