How do you know you are finished when creating something? Is "overcooking" your work a possibility, and if so, how do you avoid it?
I sometimes get asked these types of questions, and as we are finishing up this new album, I am, once again, having to answer these questions for my own work.
"Is this thing done yet?"
Answering this question is one of the most important parts of cooking a turkey. Or an album. Or a book. Or any other thing.
Have you ever seen the Tay Zonday performance of "Chocolate Rain" on YouTube?
Now to me, that is a quintessential example of something that has been "overcooked."
While Tay's performance is enjoyable to watch; it is, of course enjoyable in a way that he probably did not intend or would not prefer... It's funny. And why is it funny? Because it is ridiculously calculated and sterile. Just listen to the keyboard. Every note is perfectly quantized to the grid. There is no dynamic range or human imperfections in anything throughout the song. He doesn't even want to breathe in the microphone, lest, God forbid, we figure out that he is actually human!
Still, I think there is something about Tay that ought to be admired. He seems to care enough about his work to actually work. In a world where everybody now has a stage and a microphone because of things like YouTube and social media, Tay Zonday is actually a rare find. There are millions of lazy hacks out there posting unworked, uncared about, trite, out of tune, out of time crap and thinking it's worth something because they "feel" it.
So how do you find a good balance between Chocolate Rain and Tifffany YouTube who forgets the lyrics in the second verse but posts the video anyway?
For me, it once again comes down to the whole fear/love thing that I have written extensively about in the book.
Am I backing away from this microphone every time I breathe because I am afraid of something or because I love something? Ok, that might be a bit too abstract, but do you see my point? When I look at Tay sing, I don't get the feeling that he really LOVES or enjoys what he is doing. Instead, he looks kind of freaked out, like he thinks if he doesn't get everything exactly perfect, he is going to be severely punished.
While "Chocolate Rain" is fun to watch, and seems to have worked out well for Tay… Fear is not something one should normally build their work on. In fact, I think fear is the most dangerous ingredient in art. I believe that it is fear that lies at the root of all bad and destructive art in the world.
So if you are AFRAID of "overcooking", you aren't starting in a good place. If you are AFRAID of it being imperfect, you aren't starting in a good place.
Start with love. Work the process with love. Finish with love.
Is this thing done?
I think you can know you are done when you can't think of anything else to do to make you love it more.