Nathan Bransford, Author


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Hard Day's Year

I rewatched the classic Beatles movie A Hard Day's Night over the weekend, and aside from making me crave nearly every coat and suit worn in the movie and somehow making me love the Beatles even more than I already did, this third time around I was struck by something the movie left out. Basically: that whole "Hard Day's Night" part.

The Beatles have been endlessly analyzed and discussed and written about, and even today the Lennon/McCartney partnership is one we are still pondering. But the element of their greatness that Malcolm Gladwell touches on in Outliers, and the one that I'm most interested in, is the extent to which the Beatles were, well, also fanatical workaholics.

Early in their career they played over 1,200 times in four years in Hamburg, Germany, all the while writing songs and practicing. Their greatness didn't just spring forth: they worked and worked and worked and worked some more. The sheer body of work they produced is staggering, particularly when you consider they broke up before John Lennon had even turned 30.

And yet you never see a hint of the incredible and tedious hard work behind the music and fun in A Hard Day's Night, nor, really, any work about creative geniuses (save perhaps for the great "Barton Fink," that great ode to writer's block, and a few other exceptions). The songs and novels and plays always seem to spring out from the great artist fully formed. Maybe we see that classic Eurkea moment, but then the artist scurries off to craft their work in a quick montage, or we cut straight to the book coming out.

What's funny about this is that artists themselves participate in the illusion of effortlessness, probably because artists and storytellers recognize that the truth is boring: working very very hard and practicing a very very long time is not the stuff that great stories are made of.

In the case of A Hard Day's Night, the truth is that the title song was mainly written in a single night by John Lennon, which is amazing enough on its own. But to watch the movie it seems the Beatles spend all of their time having adventures, flirting with girls, and spontaneously playing their fully-formed music. I can't help but think of the time they spent off the screen to make the illusion possible.

And with these stories and movies in our heads, when we read the magic on the page in a book and it flows so smoothly and effortlessly, it's easy to forget the hard day's year that went into it.






97 comments:

Anonymous said...

As an aside, trying to get to the bottom of their genius is much less an exercise when you serious don;t like their music.

Just saying is all... :)

I find them neither genius nor even tolerable.

I am much more a Bowie, Zepplin, Stones, T-Rex, Queen type of fan thank you very much!

Anonymous said...

serious(ly) that is

Nathan Bransford said...

Wow, anon. Considering how influential they were to the bands you like, that's kind of like hating the English language but loving Shakespeare!

Daisy Harris said...

My brother often talks of a friend of his who hopes to write the next Harry Potter. Said person has written a chapter or two thus far. When my bro and I visited my mom this summer, he watched me laying out my piles of notecards and reams of notes on one of my completed first drafts. Though my work is only being published by a small press right now, he said, "I think you'll be successful, because what you're doing looks really tedious."

Easy reading is darn hard writing. And that's the facts, Jack.

Oh, and the reason I had such an "easy" time starting to write fiction? Because I'd done tech writing for 7 years. Not only did I learn grammar and composition, but I also learned I wouldn't get paid unless I created content. There's no substitute for words in paper.

kimysworld said...

Nathan, truer words have never been spoken!

David A. Shepherd said...

That has to be one of the best quotes I've ever read:

"I think you'll be successful, because what you're doing looks really tedious."

So, so true.

Anonymous said...

You might be romanticizing this a bit. The Beatles also used a lot of drugs and messed around quite a bit. Paul McCartney actually said in an interview that drugs "informed" much of the Beatles' music: Sir Paul reveals Beatles drug use. I don't doubt that the Beatles worked hard, but work schedules today are much more intense than work schedules back then which left a great deal of time for "playing". Today, the Beatles would also need a dance routine, and I'm not sure that any of them were gymnasts or dancers.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

Not sure I follow that. They worked less hard because they had drug habits? I don't see how drugs change the workload.

T. Anne said...

I think the Beatles are a perfect example of how passion outweighs the pain of 'practice'. All those hours in Hamburg, the Beatles were living out their dream. For them, the dream just kept getting better and better.

BTW, LOVED Outliers.

J. T. Shea said...

I don't have a link, but there is an hysterically funny short black and white video of Peter Sellers, dressed as the hunchbacked King Henry V, reciting the lyrics of the song HARD DAY'S NIGHT like a Shakespearian soliloquy. It's worth Googling.

All the Beatles, individually and collectively, combined both genius and hard work. I agree with Nathan and Daisy Harris that it takes a lot of hard work and time to make something look spontaneous and effortless.

Anonymous said...

One of the BEST exhibitions I ever saw was of Picasso's early work where he was still learning and awkward. It broke through the illusion that even a genius doesn't have to hone his skills.

Anonymous said...

Here's what I meant ... Experimenting with drugs, the Beatles probably did not work quite as hard as you're implying they did. Many people today probably work much harder than they did with much less opportunity for success. Times are different. I assumed you were extrapolating from the Beatles' time to today - not quite comparable. The way in which people behaved under the influence of drugs in the sixties isn't even considered acceptable behavior by the corporations that fund artists today. Chances are the Beatles wouldn't even be that successful today. Case in point: Paul McCartney is nowhere near as revered today as the Beatles were back then, and he's still a performing artist.

Josin L. McQuein said...

Hehehe.

This fits well with a mini-rant I had on my blog at the end of last week when I got fed up with a particular annoyance's constant demands for "the secret" to writing success. They refused to believe that hard work or dedication entered into it at all. It had to be a matter of luck or knowing the write people (or using the secret word of the Stonecutters in the query!).

While being lucky enough to know people can't hurt, all the connections in the world can't give you talent, nor can talent put words on a page when the talented's butt isn't in their chair with their hands on their keyboard.

Writing, music, etc, etc, etc. It's usually all the same - it takes years to become an overnight success.

Danielle La Paglia said...

It's true that we all love to fantasize about typing out that brilliant first draft, but it's just not true. A year is much closer to the reality, but the hard work & effort are worth it.

I happen to be a HUGE Beatles fan and I have to ask Anon...do you not think that the bands you listed - Bowie, Zepplin, Stones, Queen - used drugs? I dare say they are at the top of the abusers list as well. Just sayin'.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

I still don't agree - I'm not saying they worked 24/7, but if you read up on what they were doing in their early years, they were playing shows for hours on end seven days a week. They were already really good by the time they were teenagers. They worked an insane amount of time, drugs or no drugs.

And let's not play the "wouldn't be successful today" game.

Elisa said...

Lol, I love movie montages because of how easy it makes everything seem. I learned from Rocky that all I need is a few clips of me hitting the heavy bag and wham I'm a professional fighter.

But really, what you wrote is important and important for people, not just writers to keep in mind.

J.K. Rowling is one author who admitted to revising one of her chapters thirteen times because of the blaring plot-hole she saw, but non of us will ever see that. And I'd rather not. Sometimes it's nice to let yourself believe some things weren't hard. That way it doesn't destroy the magic around you.

Anonymous said...

Ok, we agree to disagree. I think you're romanticizing the past.

Nathan Bransford said...

I'm romanticizing the past to say they worked really really really hard?

Yes, agree to disagree. Also very confused.

swampfox said...

The only problem with working hard is that you might work harder than anyone, and you might have more talent than most, but all of that STILL won't guarantee success!

Sierra McConnell said...

Yes, it's hard work. But when it's something you love to do, it doesn't seem like much work at all, really. You look back and then you think, 'I really did all that?'

And you realize that it was fun. Sure, it was painful. But so is horseback riding, gardening, skiing, and other recreational activities. They can beat the heck out of you, but it feels great to do it. :)

Anonymous said...

To whomever it was that asked if I thought Queen etc used drugs - prolly, but I didn't bring up the drug thing - someone else is debating it w/ Nathan.

As far as I must be nuts to like Zepplin and not Beatles because the fab 4 influenced Zepplin is hardly a English to Shakespeare comparison.

Everyone and everything draws influences. But they are influences. IF Zepplin had ripped the Beatles off, that would be one thing.

Queen also influenced Metallica. You can certainly like one without the other.

Being a homer for your team is fine. Trying to paint people who don;t agree with you as ignorant or tasteless is just pathetic.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon@3:28-

Yeah, I agree. I was just being hyperbolic.

Chuck H. said...

When it comes to the subject of work, I defer to my contemporary Maynard G. Krebbs. Work??? (Always said in a strained croak.)

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Heck, it might be a lot longer than a year.

But, luckily, I must be getting near my ten thousand hours.

Shaquil said...

Probably the best indirect advise I've gotten in a long time. It's stuff like this that slips your mind when you're struggling. Great post (so great it's the first time I've ever felt the need to comment)

Daisy Harris said...

Hard work alone does not guarantee success, but you can't be successful without it.

If you look at any famous person- Prince, Elvis, Nora Roberts, Malcolm Gladwell- they all worked their behinds off.

I'm the first to admit that I am less hard working than Michael Jackson, and hence will achieve lesser success in life.

But to claim that anyone became famous without hard work seems ludicrous to me.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 328: "To whomever it was that asked if I thought Queen etc used drugs - prolly, but I didn't bring up the drug thing - someone else is debating it w/ Nathan."

Then:

Anon @ 242: "You might be romanticizing this a bit. The Beatles also used a lot of drugs and messed around quite a bit. Paul McCartney actually said in an interview that drugs "informed" much of the Beatles' music..."

And then again Anon @ 259: "Here's what I meant ... Experimenting with drugs, the Beatles probably did not work quite as hard as you're implying they did. Many people today probably work much harder than they did with much less opportunity for success. Times are different. I assumed you were extrapolating from the Beatles' time to today - not quite comparable."

That's not the same person who began the comments today dismissing the Beatles? I'm trying to understand the argument but either the original commenter is pulling a switcheroo or a 2nd anon is creating confusion, on purpose or not.

Anonymous said...

There are at least two anons here. I'm just one of them. I'm going to drop out of the discussion now because it's getting too confusing.

Anonymous said...

I mean, it's not much of an argument, the original poster's, and it doesn't really address the post at all and seeks to invalidate it and an entire canon of musical history without going into any detailed reason for the opinion but I'm still trying to understand it.

This is Anon @ 338, btw.

SSB said...

Here is synchronization for you. This weekend I dug out my "portable stereo" from the attic and listened to The Beatles' White Album on vinyl.

The music seemed to drag and crackle a little--like we all do with age-- but the nostalgia was irreplaceable. Helter Skelter is coming down fast. Yes...she...is, yes...she...is. Too bad Charlie Manson didn't realize it was a song about a British roller coaster.

B.L. Holliday said...

"Eurkea"

Is that a Norwegian furniture company trying to capitalize on name recognition?

I have to admit that I was never a Beatles fan. A few of Lennon's songs (Imagine, Yesterday) catch my ear from time to time, but I've never really been able to connect to them. I recognize them for the geniuses that they were, though.

It's important to recognize, though, that the amount of work that goes into a countless number of art forms shouldn't discourage an artist from the pursuit of professional acclaim. It's about passion and dedication, and realizing that this is more than a hobby that we use to fill our idle time.

Picasso-Anon said...

Woah!There at at least three anons here. Mine was just a comment on Picasso. So I will change my anon name to Picasso-anon. Yikes! Now, is where being an "anon" can be confusing and troubling to the conversation. dear-dear-dear,where o where is Mira when we need mediation?

BTW, Bryan, your prose is showing your ten-thousand hours too. Very nice way with words, you have. (sayeth Yoda).

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 338 and 347:

Sorry, my comment @ 347 reads more harshly than I mean it to. Still must have my teacher hat on.

SSB said...

By the way, a lot of people had a "drug habit" in the 60's and 70's, though it would have been referred to a using drugs, not a habit. In the era before the piss test, this was not uncommon. Drug use did not stop people from working hard. The Beatles were ruled the 60's, drugs or no drugs, and no one can achieve the level of success that they did without hard work.

Girlfriends Book Club said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SSB said...

Typo were, please ignore. I have ADD

writerjenn said...

That's funny, I rewatched "The Rutles" over the weekend. Best Beatlemania parody ever, and takes nothing away from the power of the Beatles.

And yes, I had read about the Beatles' stint in Hamburg, and how they played an insane number of hours. Which in turn reminds me of that 10,000 hours theory we learned about in my cognitive psych class (which I see at least one other commenter here has referenced)--that what experts in any field have most in common, more than any inborn talent, is that they put in their practice time. At least 10,000 hours' worth.

SSB said...

Typo were, please ignore. I have ADD

Girlfriends Book Club said...

I adored this post and believe in your point wholeheartedly. I think Gladwell says it takes a million hours to really master something.

Reminds me of the story of a Chinese artist who charged a pretty penny penny for a drawing of a cat. The buyer balked because it took the artist less than a minute to dash it off.
The artist said, "You're paying for the years it took me to learn to do such a clever drawing in such a short time.

It takes many hours and dedication to be an artist. As others have noted, it's no guarantee of success. True, but when you go that deeply into the art form the success is in the doing, not the results.

maine character said...

We worked hard. We used to have to battle sometimes with the engineers and sometimes with George Martin, to make them stay beyond six or seven in the evening. We’d start at one or two in the afternoon and work right through ‘til one or two in the morning.
- George Harrison

The main thing was never to accept the obvious, never to accept second-best, and always to look beyond what’s there.
- George Martin


And remember, right through Sgt. Pepper's they were working with just four tracks. Which meant getting the tracks right before bouncing them 'cause there'd be no going back and fixing a flaw the next day without doing everything over again.

Brooklyn Ann said...

To the first Anon that got all upset because Nathan used a band he/she didn't care for as an example: Either you are being deliberately obtuse or you didn't read the post.

Mr. Bransford was not saying that "The Beatles" are the greatest band ever and we must all listen to them. He was making a comparison between the portrayal that their music was effortless with the similarities in our views of authors.

Moral of the story: Hard Work pays off. NOT: You suck if you don't like The Beatles.

I often use Stephen King as an example of effort = accomplishment, but I'm not saying everyone has to love his work.

I was never a Beatles fan either, but I enjoyed your post, Nathan.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Why, thankee kindly, Picasso-Yoda-Anon. You just brightened my day.

And maybe I should start marketing a writing chronometer? A nice bell will go off every thousand hours of writing, and at 10,000 hours little streams of confetti will pop out and Queen's We Are the Champions will start playing.

ryan field said...

I read a Danielle Steel interview this week in Time Magazine where she made all her work look effortless. And I'm sure it wasn't that way at all...especially with nine kids.

Other Lisa said...

I had the nicest compliment from a friend about my writing: "It seems so easy and effortless."

I laughed. A lot.

abc said...

One time I smoked pot while at my Chinese restaurant job (sooooooo long ago) and boy did I work hard! I was a working fool. Scrubbing tables, bring people their orders, working the register....

Hee Hee.

Actually, this is a true story. I was in college once. Don't consider myself having had a drug habit, though.

Also, just don't get how one can NOT like the Beatles. At least some of their music. Blackbird? All You Need is Love? Hey Jude?

What does Malcolm Gladwell say? To be great at something you need to put in 10,000 hours of practice/work? Am I right? I'm way behind, I think. Waaaaay behind.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

Non writers ask me about writing all the time. And my most frequent answer is "it's often boring and it's a lot of work."

Brooklyn Ann said...

abc: Ironically enough I don't really like The Beatles or Aerosmith but I ADORE Aerosmith's cover of "Come Together."

I have no idea why. :)

Rick Daley said...

Recently, Abbott recalled a large amount of baby formula because there were beetles in it...

Help! Everything's gone Helter Skelter. Imagine, a Beatle in the formula. Yesterday was just A Day in the Life for Abbott, but now the have to Carry That Weight, the media just won't Let It Be. Infants can't quit formula Cold Turkey, you know, we would see babies detoxing Here, There, and Everywhere. We need to Come Together and find a solution, not start a Revolution. We Can Work it Out.

The End.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

The drug talk cracks me up. Stephen King admits to extensive addiction. He also admits to an incredible hours writing. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Catherine Stine said...

Yes, or maybe a hard few years!
I love love love the Beatles, especially loved Lennon. True genius songwriter. Not too many come close... maybe Eddie Vedder, Scot Weiland, um Alanis Morisette?

NRH said...

For the love of God, it's ZeppElin, and mentioning them in the same sentence as T-Rex is an abomination.

The Beatles are J.K. Rowling...really amazing popular stuff.

Led Zeppelin is Cormac McCarthy...really amazing heavy stuff.

Let the masses decide who is better, or if they're each untouchable in their own way.

Either way, no slackers here.

Annie Donwerth Chikamatsu said...

I've seen documentaries over the years that say how much and how hard they worked. I've also heard people say that they don't get why the Beatles were so big. I say you had to have lived in those times or to know the history of music to understand. I lived through it and it's my memory that their (later) lyrics were the first to have a voice of their own.

D.J. Morel said...

They had a great exhibit of Michelangelo sketches in Seattle a while back. Apparently his sketches are rare since he burned most of them. He wanted to foster the idea that his monumetal works sprung fully formed from him, and was pretty successful at this by only leaving behind his finished work.

Not true though, he worked indredibly hard to get there, genius notwithstanding. If Michelangelo had to work so dang hard, I got no excuse.

Girlfriends Book Club said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Girlfriends Book Club said...

Here's a post about Danielle Steel's obsessive work habits:

http://daniellesteel.net/blog/2009/02/writing/

And Dean Koontz supposedly never takes a vacation.

Anonymous said...

Brooklyn Ann said: "Moral of the story: Hard Work pays off."

I am the Anon @2:42 PM. That's how I interpreted the meaning of Nathan's original post. And I disagree. SOMETIMES hard work pays off; sometimes it doesn't. In this economy, it often does not. In this same economy, there are a few best-selling authors who have bragged online about how they wrote their novels in only three weeks or how they write popular genres and don't ever plan to emulate great literary writing. Lots of people who work very, very hard - sometimes holding down three jobs just to get by - don't succeed. Sometimes people who work MUCH less hard but accomplish something very popular, succeed big-time. It might make us feel better to believe that "Hard work pays off," but that isn't how reality always works. Reality is much more complicated than that.

And, for the record, I love the Beatles' music.

JohnO said...

The fact that one anonymous crank doesn't like the Beatles is no reason to let him/her screw up a perfectly fine blog post and comments thread.

A short list: Musicians often talk about how difficult Beatles songs are to play, because some of the chord progressions are so uncommon.

Sgt. Peppers incorporated roots influences, Indian music, avant-garde electronics, classical, music hall, and more.

George Harrison introduced the Indian sitar to the song "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)."

In 1965 -- less than ten years after Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock" -- the Beatles incorporated a string quartet on 1965's "Yesterday," and many other bands of the time followed suit.

"Penny Lane" contains a prominent piccolo trumpet inspired by a performance of Bach's second Brandenburg Concerto

They used "text painting," which goes back to the Renaissance but is relatively uncommon in rock music.

White Album included everything from blues-rock to vaudeville.

It's facile to say you don't like them. But let's hear it from a more objective source, like the All Music Guide, which is basically synthesizing of 40+ years of Beatles' critical reception:

"... they were the greatest and most influential act of the rock era, and introduced more innovations into popular music than any other rock band of the 20th century."

Cathy said...

My favorite movie writing scene is in Amadeus. Mozart is has his papers spread out on the pool table, and he's bouncing a ball around the sides without looking up from the manuscript he's writing. Then his dad comes to his apartment, and gets in a big fight with his wife--situation hopeless. Mozart just leaves, goes into the room with the pool table, shuts the door, and goes right back to sending the ball around the table and writing. It's not about effort so much as concentration.

Cornell DeVille said...

What a great post, Nathan! I'll show my age and tell you that I saw that movie when it was first released in the early sixties. I was fourteen or fifteen at the time, and I played in a band. The music the Beatles were writing was so different from everything else that was out there: minor seventh chords, progressions different from the typical 1-4-5 with a 2-minor. It was fresh and different and wonderful, and they certainly changed the music industry with their innovative writing.

Was it hard work? I'm sure it was. But I highly doubt that they complained about it, since it was something they loved and something they were obviously quite good at. Genius has a tendency of making the difficult appear effortless.

As I grew older I developed an interest in art and became, finally, a nationally distributed wildlife artist. I was a painter. When invited to the National Wildlife Art Show as an exhibitor, I saw another artist who specialized in woodcarving. His ducks were the most realistic I had ever seen. I told him I was absolutely amazed at his talent. He told me it was actually quite easy to do. When I questioned this he said, "You just start with a big piece of wood and carve off everything that doesn't look like a duck."

So there you have my two cents worth. I'll end this by saying that I did have one of those collarless jackets that the Beatles wore in that film. I was going to put it on Ebay and see what I could get for it. My wife informed me that she had taken it to Goodwill a long, long time ago.
Drat the luck. Another investment down the drain.

Keep up the great posts. I enjoy reading you.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Very much agreed. I think this can lead us to be much harder on ourselves, especially if we look at our first drafts and think they're crap. We read a good book and just imagine the words pouring out of the author, maybe knowing but not really believing that rounds of revisions went into them.

As for the Beatles/drugs argument: Yes, they used drugs. A lot of them. A LOT of them. Yes, this probably informed a good portion of their creativity. The point about them playing a lot of shows still stands, though. That is a lot of work, even if they enjoyed it and/or were stoned out of their minds.

Clare WB said...

Wow! The B's used drugs! Who knew? Like people who do/did/will don't work hard too? Not condoning abuse, but guys, really! Besides, I think the point of Nathan's story was creativity ain't easy. On or off drugs. Anybody who argues against that, isn't. Working creatively that is.

A Paperback Writer said...

You had me at "Beatles." :)

Dawn Pier said...

Amen on the hard work bottom line and I second the "concentration" comment someone made a few above mine.

I grew up listening to the Beatles, so they definitely massaged my neurons into some interesting configurations. On a related, but different topic, does anyone know why you can't find any Beatles in the iTunes Store? Or any other "older" music for that matter. I don't get it.

FYI - John Lennon's 70th birthday is this Saturday and there are all sorts of celebrations/memorials happening on radio, TV, online.

Anonymous said...

RE ; Cathy at 6:25. I too LOVE the film Amadeus .
Remembering the scene where Salieri is reading through Amadeus' music with the comment that it appeared written entirely without mistake or correction- " as if he were merely taking dictation !"
A heavenly movie .

dylan said...

Nathan

Point well made and taken.

Aside from amphetamines and alcohol, I think the Beatles "fun" drug use came much late than "Hard Days Night". Anyone who reads about the Hamburg years would not envy them this trial by fire.

Ringo had a Yogi Berra-esque talent for coining off-handedly brilliant non-sequitors. The phrase "A Hard Days Night" was one of his, spoken just as the film was being wrapped-up, and Lennon wrote the title song based on it.

"Eight Days A Week" was another.

dylan

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

The Beatles used Prellies (stimulants) in Hamburg--so that they could play hours on end.

Their success was due to a combination of factors, but I'm sure their hard work learning their craft played a part.

"Rock on, George, for Ringo one time!"

John Milner said...

Workaholic is not the best noun to describe the trait of The Beatles compassion. It suggests their success can be achieved by anyone subscribing to an earnest devotion to discipline, which is not the case.

The reason the movie was seen as a portrayal of a so called illusion of frivolous behavior is because it existed. Lennon had convinced the other lads that they had a voice to exercise; a craft to hone; a statement to be made.

They spent time wanting to perfect a cultural stimulant which was instinctively apparent in the quartet's persona. It was a euphoria aspired by this accomplishment that drove them. They then celebrated the achievement as an extension of that goal.

The end result was repelled by the mediocrity of conformed thinking, and accepted by the consciousness of progressive thought.

Where does that energy exist today?

wendy said...

Thanks for this interesting post, Nathan! I, too, have read heaps written by them and about them. And one thing shines out: Lennon, especially, was aufait with the power of the mind. He would get the boys chanting: 'Where are we going? To the toppermost of the poppermost!' And he was quoted as saying they were the best band in the world because they thought they were. Or something similiar to that. Another quote from Lennon I like is one sometimes mentioned by Yoko: 'We all want to save the world. It's just the people we can't stand.' Yoko cited this as an example of John's ability to say what everyone else was thinking but didn't dare say.

And, yes, the hours worked while they were in Hamburg at the beginning of their career was phenomenal. John often mentioned he was married to the Beatles, more so than to his first wife, Cynthia.

D.G. Hudson said...

It always amazes me to hear someone diss the Beatles. They managed to change the music from simpering canned studio songs which were prevalent in the early sixties to songs that actually showed incredible musical proficiency and imagination.

As Nathan said, they worked hard for their success, something some of the less-talented bands that followed tried to emulate. These four musicians had a tremendous impact on the youth of that time.

There's no comparison between the Beatles and some of the groups the original 'anon' mentioned. As always, it's easy to be a critic when you hide behind the anonymous moniker.

Different choices for different tastes, but don't knock what you don't really understand.

Ishta Mercurio said...

"I think you'll be successful, because what you're doing looks really tedious."

LOL!

That bodes well for me, then!

Brooklyn Ann said...

LOL, Anon, you weren't the one I was referring to, it was the first one who said they didn't like the Beatles. "finding them neither genius nor tolerable."

I see that you were the one going off on the drug use.
On that, drugs don't necessarily incapacitate one from working/ functioning.

And as for your recent argument, sure there are such things as "one hit wonders" but how many of these so-called "I wrote this in 3 weeks" people actually STAY successful?

Anonymous said...

Actually, the book OUTLIERS by Malcolm Gladwell supports many of the Anon comments. Here's the official Editorial Reviews on Amazon:

AMAZON.COM REVIEW:

Now that he's gotten us talking about the viral life of ideas and the power of gut reactions, Malcolm Gladwell poses a more provocative question in Outliers: why do some people succeed, living remarkably productive and impactful lives, while so many more never reach their potential? Challenging our cherished belief of the "self-made man," he makes the democratic assertion that superstars don't arise out of nowhere, propelled by genius and talent: "they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot." Examining the lives of outliers from Mozart to Bill Gates, he builds a convincing case for how successful people rise on a tide of advantages, "some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky.

Outliers can be enjoyed for its bits of trivia, like why most pro hockey players were born in January, how many hours of practice it takes to master a skill, why the descendents of Jewish immigrant garment workers became the most powerful lawyers in New York, how a pilots' culture impacts their crash record, how a centuries-old culture of rice farming helps Asian kids master math. But there's more to it than that. Throughout all of these examples--and in more that delve into the social benefits of lighter skin color, and the reasons for school achievement gaps--Gladwell invites conversations about the complex ways privilege manifests in our culture. He leaves us pondering the gifts of our own history, and how the world could benefit if more of our kids were granted the opportunities to fulfill their remarkable potential. --Mari Malcolm

From the PUBLISHERS WEEKLY REVIEW:

In the end it is the seemingly airtight nature of Gladwell's arguments that works against him. His conclusions are built almost exclusively on the findings of others—sociologists, psychologists, economists, historians—yet he rarely delves into the methodology behind those studies. And he is free to cherry-pick those cases that best illustrate his points; one is always left wondering about the data he evaluated and rejected because it did not support his argument, or perhaps contradicted it altogether. Real life is seldom as neat as it appears in a Malcolm Gladwell book.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the book OUTLIERS by Malcolm Gladwell supports many of the Anon comments. Here's the official Editorial Reviews on Amazon:

AMAZON.COM REVIEW:

Now that he's gotten us talking about the viral life of ideas and the power of gut reactions, Malcolm Gladwell poses a more provocative question in Outliers: why do some people succeed, living remarkably productive and impactful lives, while so many more never reach their potential? Challenging our cherished belief of the "self-made man," he makes the democratic assertion that superstars don't arise out of nowhere, propelled by genius and talent: "they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot." Examining the lives of outliers from Mozart to Bill Gates, he builds a convincing case for how successful people rise on a tide of advantages, "some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky.

Outliers can be enjoyed for its bits of trivia, like why most pro hockey players were born in January, how many hours of practice it takes to master a skill, why the descendents of Jewish immigrant garment workers became the most powerful lawyers in New York, how a pilots' culture impacts their crash record, how a centuries-old culture of rice farming helps Asian kids master math. But there's more to it than that. Throughout all of these examples--and in more that delve into the social benefits of lighter skin color, and the reasons for school achievement gaps--Gladwell invites conversations about the complex ways privilege manifests in our culture. He leaves us pondering the gifts of our own history, and how the world could benefit if more of our kids were granted the opportunities to fulfill their remarkable potential. --Mari Malcolm

From the PUBLISHERS WEEKLY REVIEW:

In the end it is the seemingly airtight nature of Gladwell's arguments that works against him. His conclusions are built almost exclusively on the findings of others—sociologists, psychologists, economists, historians—yet he rarely delves into the methodology behind those studies. And he is free to cherry-pick those cases that best illustrate his points; one is always left wondering about the data he evaluated and rejected because it did not support his argument, or perhaps contradicted it altogether. Real life is seldom as neat as it appears in a Malcolm Gladwell book.

Anonymous said...

Brooklyn Ann -

A number of those writers currently have future book deals and movie deals. We want to believe that those who work the hardest are the ones who succeed. But that's not always the case, as Malcolm Gladwell suggests in OUTLIERS.

Mira said...

Okay, first off, I'm taking a stand here. Excessive drug use: not good for you. Also, getting alot of work done because you are hopped up on stimulants - also not that good for you.

In case anyone wanted some clarification on my postion vis-a-vis excessive drug use and stimulant induced work.

That said, in addition to finding the various anon commentary fairly amusing, I really liked this post. I think it's inspiring. I also agree that master craftsmanship seems effortless. I've realized that whenever I think to myself, "that looks easy, I could do that," there's not a chance in a million that I actually could, and I'm probably gazing at the work of a master.

I agree about working hard, too. I think if you're going to accomplish something truly wonderful, you have to work hard to do that. Hard work, dedication, commitment, discipline - these are all essential.

On the other hand, people really can wear themselves out, and so I think balance is very important, too. When I'm exhausted or worn down or stressed, I find it's really hard to write anything of any quality. So, it's a balance. There's a time to work, and a time to rest. I think they tend to go hand in hand.

Picasso-Anon - thanks for the vote of confidence. :)

Okay, it's been a long, hard day, and I'm off to rest now! Nathan, thank you for the great post.

Anonymous said...

In the following interview - http://www.gladwell.com/outliers/index.html - Malcolm Gladwell, the author of OUTLIERS, talks about how much the time in history within which a person lives affects the chance that he or she will be successful. To not look at the particular historical time period in which an artist lived is, in my opinion, to ignore a huge part of their true path to success. I'm not sure this is a "wouldn't be successful GAME" - I think, as Gladwell points out, that achieving success is often a very complex event which defies our common beliefs about how it really comes about. Just my two cents.

Elie said...

I agree with Nathan about the hard work and the time it takes, and it's really difficult to explain this to people who keep saying 'haven't you finished it/got it published yet?'

Anonymous discusses (referring to a Malcolm Gladwell interview): 'how much the time in history within which a person lives affects the chance that he or she will be successful.' There's a lot of truth in that, becoming successful is not usually straightforward. Many factors are at work.

Rick Daley said...

If we limit our respect for musicians to only those who were sober, we lose many of the greats. Even Mozart was renowned for his substance abuse, primarily alcohol and opiates, which were most readily available to him.

Pink Floyd ranks as my all-time favorite band. I think Roger Waters has a gift for lyrics. One of my favorite lines is from Echoes:


And through the window in the hall
Comes streaming in on sunlight wings
A million bright ambassadors of morning


WORD VERIFICATION: mingu. A school of higher learning for sci-fi villains, headed by Flash Gordon's nemisis, Ming the Merciless.

Jennifer Walkup said...

This is a really interesting post. I have to laugh often at myself because even though I'm a writer and I KNOW how much work goes into a novel, when I read a great novel, one that tells a great story and feels effortless, I forget what I know and am all but convinced the book flowed from the writer almost directly how I'm reading it. When it feels effortless, it feels effortless, which I think is one of the signs of good writing/storytelling. But I always think, if I, as a writer and knowing what I know about the process, can forget, the average reader must truly have no idea what goes into it.

Julie Owsik Ackerman said...

I love this thought. I think what stops so many people from creating is this mistaken idea that genius just flows, and if it doesn't you have no talent. I know that my writing needs lots of hard work and editing to seem effortless. (or kinda sorta effortless). Thank you for this reminder!

Julie

Joseph L. Selby said...

Hrm, if I had known where the comment conversation was headed, I would have posted this question yesterday before all that kerfluffle. Here's a question I've had for awhile but didn't know how to bring it up without sounding boastful.

Can a prospective writer produce too much? For those agents that invest time to improve the manuscript before submitting to publishers, would a novice author with a high output be less attractive? (This assumes the quality of the work would otherwise incline the agent to offer representation.)

I write two novels a year and hope that's a good thing, but worry maybe it's not.

androidblues said...

Hey anon, you're forgetting that a lot of bands used drugs. Just because Kurt Cobain used heroin does that make him any less a musician. His music might have been better had he not used drugs. The Beatles are cool, not the best but certainly not the worst, but they influenced a lot of people. If you're going to be stupid at least refer to people that came out before them, like Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Holly.

Nathan Bransford said...

joseph-

Quality is the most important thing, but some people are able to turn out multiple quality novels a year. Some take longer. It's really about the end result.

lotusgirl said...

Outliers really shows the importance of work. I was floored by how many hours the Beatles spent playing in that "night club." They had plenty of time to be bad and work out their sound and try new stuff. Being a pro at something does take that time working, practicing, failing, falling down, getting back up and working with even more determination.

I have to shake my head at anon saying that Paul McCartney isn't talented because he's not selling tons of records today. Seriously? He had a very successful solo (and group) career after the Beatles. He's 68. I'd say he's semi-retired. He still packs 'em in for his concerts.

Genius=talent + instruction + tons and tons of work. Think of Mozart. Would he have been the phenomenon that he was if his father had never taught him to play the piano and made him practice endlessly?

There is no substitute for hard work. Wow. I got up on my soapbox a little bit.

Joseph L. Selby said...

Perhaps the mistake I'm making is the presumption of an equal distribution of time among submitted mss. If x number of clients turn in a completed manuscript each year and one of those clients turns in two, then the total time distributed per client's manuscript reduces for all but the two-mss producer, whose total time increases.

I worry about infringing on other people's time. It may be silly, but I worry about that kind of thing.

Sheila Cull said...

Love it.

Nathan, I'd bet you're a workaholic. That's okay, experiencing this, it's better than being an alcoholic.

J. T. Shea said...

Peter Sellers is dressed as the hunchbacked King Richard III, not Henry V, reciting the lyrics of the song HARD DAY'S NIGHT like a Shakespearian soliloquy in the funny short black and white video. Apologies to all, particularly King Henry V, who might have asked, like Marty Feldman in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, 'Hump? What hump?'.

Anonymous 2:59 pm, the Beatles ARE still successful today, two generations after starting out, even though many of their original fans are dead. The Beatles have stood the proverbial test of time.

BTW, if Anons used names, even invented names, like Picasso-Anon, we'd be able to distinguish them easier. Who wants to be just a number?

Scooter Carlyle said...

I'm not a fanatical Beatles fan, but my favorite song they've ever done is, "Blackbird."

Just last night, I was singing the melody while I was cleaning the living room. My two-year-old, who sings a bunch of absolutely adorable, but mostly unintelligible songs, was dancing while I sang.

I started again on the line, "Black bird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly..." Before I could move on to the next phrase, I heard Elliot sing, "Fly!"

AWWWWW!

Joanna St. James said...

Oh Please! the idea of this post is that hard work lies behind any art that looks effortless. The Beatles are just an analogy, replace the beatles with any group that works for you.

Anonymous said...

lotusgirl -

I never said Paul McCartney isn't talented. Quite the opposite - he's just as talented as he was at the height of his career. My point is that times change, physical appearances change, a nation's interests change. Lots of things other than hard work help create a huge success. Right now, Justin Bieber's name comes up in discussions about popular rock music much more often than Paul McCartney's name does. His talent hasn't changed, but his popularity has. No matter how hard he works right now, he won't be able to capture teenagers' attention the way that Justin Bieber has.

In regard to drugs and rebellion, back in the sixties era, the Beatles' rebellion and drug use actually helped add to their appeal because they spoke to a generation searching for meaning through those avenues. That definitely wouldn't be mainstream today.

Picasso-Anon said...

Fuzzy Math?

If I add in all the hours I study the craft of writing every day (subtracting the hours I procrastinate)plus the hours I spend reading about the industry (i.e. blogs like this one) to the hours I spend actually writing a book, (including the research and the plotting) does it count towards my 10,000 hours?

(oh no... if an apple is in a bushel on a train, moving at a speed of 34.5 miles an hour and a hungry passenger is in Toledo, when, on Monday, will there be pie for dessert??? or something??? I was never that good at math questions like this! never!)

Anonymous said...

Here's what I want to know: How hard does Snooki work? That girl is really successful - reality TV show, an MTV spinoff show in the works, AND a book deal for a novel.

Mark Adair said...

Loved the film; loved the band; loved the work ethic; loved the point.

"Genius: one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." Einstein, Edison, or more likely somebody's mother.

Cheers.

Henri said...

If I remember correctly, it didn't take a long time to make "A Hard Day's Night" either. Something like six weeks, which is record fast for a full length film.

Margaret Lesh said...

Nathan, one day, when God was sitting around wanting something great to listen to, something a little different from Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Gershwin, He reached out his hand and the Beatles were created.

And that's all I have to say about that. (Except that Hard Days Night is a great film. The jumping scene is my favorite.)

Steppe said...

Dedication Meets Opportunity.
A good tagline for the overall theme.

Steppe said...

Or... "Bob Bling 4 Apples." Nyuck Nyuck Nyuck.

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