One of our agency’s four key principles is “be nimble, be quick, be prolific.” The last part of this principle—the prolific part—has been a hot topic around the OKRP workspace lately.
Regardless of what anybody says, there’s no secret formula for creating great work, other than to create a lot of it all of the time. This is the case whether you are a writer, artist, designer, musician or celebrity chef. Success is in direct correlation to how hard you’re willing to work for it—measured in the quantity of the material you generate and your willingness to journey through the bad, the indifferent, the mediocre and the good in order to arrive at great.
When it comes to the subject of being prolific, we all need to be a little more like Bob Dylan.
Bob Dylan is arguably the greatest songwriter of the past half century (in fact, Rolling Stone magazine recently bestowed that official honor on him.) The man is responsible for making our lives better because his hits include “Like A Rolling Stone”, “Tangled Up In Blue”, “Simple Twist of Fate”, “Girl From The North Country”, “It’s All Right, Baby Blue”… and that’s just scratching the surface of the surface. At the same time, it’s safe to argue he’s also our most prolific writer, having penned more than 600 published songs in his career (not to mention the infinite ideas that never it made it past his piano, guitar, notebook or imagination.) and they’re not all masterpieces. For every “Like A Rolling Stone” there’s at least one “Wiggle, Wiggle” and “All The Tired Horses”, songs that Bob Dylan undoubtably thought were worth writing at the time, but would probably rather forget now. He keeps going, keeps working, and when other writers are asleep or getting drunk, Bob Dylan is writing his ass off. That’s why he’s Bob Dylan, and they’re not.
Same can be said for other famously prolific artists—Woody Allen, Isaac Asimov, Karim Rashid, Frank Gehry, Maya Angelou, Georgetto Giugiaro, Ravi Shankar, Edison, Dickens, Beethoven, and Gershwin. And of course Picasso, who produced over 150,000 pieces of art in his lifetime. Each listed above have their own “Wiggle, Wiggle” crosses to bear, but ultimately their incredible bodies of work are defined and highlighted by their greatest hits—not their bombs. Point being, no matter how talented or gifted they may be, it takes a lot of misses to make a lot of greatest hits.
Of course, the flip-side of this is that there are a hundred million one-hit-wonders out there, too—artists, musicians, and writers who showed flashes of brilliance in their debuts (which were filled with a heretofore lifetime full of material) only to crash with a sophomore jinx after the well ran dry and the personal production stalled. If you don’t believe me, just ask The Knack.