Forget play. Creation is serious stuff.
In his astounding conference delivered in front of an audience of some 200 Montreal creatives CreativeMornings/Montréal's October event, musician-DJ-producer-creator Ghislain Poirier revealed – for the first time on camera – what to him could explain the success of creatives. To the audience's surprise, the playful and ludic were mostly shunned as required yet insignificant components of the artist's overall creative set of distinctive abilities.
Borrowing from various examples such as hockey players and other professionals who are generally deemed to be playful in essence, Poirier depicts "a day in the life of a DJ" as being nothing short of a repetitive, unexceptional series of tasks that largely resemble the daily lives of most office workers. Sure, the musician takes pleasure in musical creativity and the exploration of different new beats, but the vast majority of the time spent in and around music is devoted not to creative and playful exploration, but to the often disappointing process of filtering out many uninspiring creations, the perfecting of others, and the commercialization of one's work...
"When an idea comes, we must work work work. You spend hours polishing, clarifying, smoothing angles, varnishing, putting the icing, the gloss, working the details. And finition - or infinition, as a friend calls it - is really boring." For Poirier, the finalization of the project, the ironing out of bugs and defects constitutes the most important investment creators can make. "Average simply isn't acceptable", he adds. In creation, ideas just sit there, spun around endlessly. As a concept, intuition is an absurdity.
To the latter, reaction were abundant and shared during the Q&A. Eric Bourget, whose startup Insyders is working on an employee engagement platform, furthers the point: “You can’t wait for inspiration to come. You have to chase it with a stick. You have to force it to happen. Personally, I book it on my agenda, make some tea and play a music compilation I prepared in advance. In the beginning, most of what I do is not that great and I feel like I’m wasting time and should move to something else. Then after a little while it starts kicking in but it takes a lot of will power to stay on it.” Whether or not that process can be iterated into what we normally understand as "intuition" remains to be determined.
Deconstructing the myth surrounding the creative process of music artists, Poirier also describes how the sound comes to be. Contrary to what many think, beats and melodies do not form distinctly in the minds of their fathers, waiting to be laid down onto paper or played with an instrument – in Poirier's case, a computer. "When I'm making music, I'm making music. It's a deliberate action" he says. An act of active search that may not have a definite beginning or end, but neither is the result of the mindless meanderings often depicted in clichés about creativity.
Pushing further into the generative dance that takes place during the emergence of new sonorities, the notions of self-censorship and failure are central components to the young creators' original mindset. "Self-censorship is always nearby. It’s on the prowl. It’s the devil on your shoulder." He adds: "You are allowed to make something lame, brownish crap. What's important is to avoid showing it! The outside world doesn't need to know that 30 tracks went down the drain to produce the 10 that they'll listen to and love."
Though the theory would have us become ever more creative, enacting our creative potential into creative gestures, creation is never a very long moment. Like finding the rough rock in which lies a diamond, the difficulty lies not in the finding of the rock, but in the lengthy process of cutting, polishing and cleaning the precious gem that's embedded at the centre.
Those who pursue lifelong careers in the creative arts know that it is only through a systematic and rigorous approach to their craft that they will be able to persist and thrive. Some of them become blasé, or worse, bitter when faced with the inherent unplayful and arid nature of contemporary creation. "Every song is a small miracle, and an album, a huge miracle". So when you find the track, when you lay down the idea and the sound and the beats and contemplate them, what you hear is not so much the music the resonates throughout the room...
... it is the sound of the future, and of the work that remains, in order for that sound to become something real, and something great.
Photos: Pierre-Antoine Lafon Simard