The Lennon-McCartney Approach to Creation

Recently I was co-writing an article about a fairly esoteric technology subject with a colleague who is an undisputed expert. The details of the subject are not important, except that we were coming at it from two completely different angles. As a typical freelance writer, I was looking to cover it with broad strokes, summarizing enough general points to capture the interest of a reader who probably didn’t know much about it and reach as wide an audience as possible.

Meanwhile, my colleague was applying all of his expertise and passion to the article. He wanted to dive deep, revealing the true inner nature of the subject. It would reach the people it was meant to reach, and have a genuinely positive impact on their lives. Casual readers probably would not pay attention anyway, he reasoned.

After a lot of push and pull, we finally reached a compromise and produced what we both agreed was a pretty good article. We both felt like we had sacrificed something to get it written, always the hallmark of a successful compromise. I commented that all the creative tension we had gone through was similar to two musicians writing a song, and was even bold enough to compare our efforts to the efforts of two of the best songwriters who ever lived.

“I was like Paul McCartney, trying to make sure we had a commercial hit, while you were like John Lennon, trying to maintain a pure artistic vision,” I said. Beyond being touched I assigned him the plum Lennon role, my colleague agreed with the basic premise.

Classic Creativity

For some reason, this little throwaway comment where I compared myself to one of the most popular and accomplished people of the last century stuck in my head. I started thinking about some other classic rock songwriting duos, like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones and Steven Tyler and Joe Perry from Aerosmith. They operate similarly, with the tension between the guy searching for the hit and the guy searching for the truth resulting in a combination of both that produces some amazing results. Maybe these crazy rock n rollers are on to something.

Meeting in the Middle

Too much of anything is rarely works out well, and that is generally true of both commercialism and idealism. We’ve all seen what happens when a product or brand is crassly built to give consumers exactly what they want. Sometimes there is an initial rush of popularity, but usually people quickly become bored with getting everything they expect and they may even feel insulted at the obvious attempt to win their affection.

On the other hand, when a product or brand is created with no regard whatsoever to the wants and needs of the consumer, usually it fades pretty quickly. If true creative genius lurks within, it may hang on long enough to become avant garde and eventually well-regarded without really becoming popular. The results are really not any better than those of the blatantly commercial creation.

The Lennon-McCartney approach to creation, whether you are creating a song or other work of art, a car, a cocktail, or a mobile phone app, offers the best chance of success. Most people, even the really smart and talented ones, usually don’t have all the answers, and won’t try to find the ones they lack if they aren’t pushed. Working with a like-minded partner or partners is worse than working alone, because any bad ideas you might have will only be reinforced.

But work with someone at the opposite end of the spectrum, provided they are also smart and talented, and the process may be difficult, but the results will probably be much better than either of you could produce on your own.

People also view

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *