First Takes

Day 109 Week 16 Q2 Thursday, April 18, 2024

Why are first takes so often superior to anything that comes after? They may not be technically superior, but they are certainly artistically superior because they’re more authentic and less encumbered by technical shifts into a frame of mind that is more perfectionistic than expressive.

In preparation for the shooting of my TV show this afternoon, during which I will perform a piece of music I have composed, I decided to simply turn on my laptop, using its internal microphone, and sing and play the bass without bothering to use an interface, or external microphone, or signal processing, or a click track, or a music stand, or a camera. Is this a professional-grade recording? Of course not. But did it take only one minute longer than it took to perform the piece a single time? That one minute was simply spent tuning.

The key to greatness is not to overthink. All of this analysis and paralysis by perfectionism really do not serve us. We were designed to live life in real-time, not to do 100 Redos until we get it right. 

The act of doing something over and over until it is perfect is natural but not very creative. It gets in the way of the stream-of-consciousness emotional expression that makes me feel good. Do audiences expect perfection and not care about the hundred retakes? I really don’t care. I am not doing what I do for them.

If all of you are creating is for somebody else and not serving you, then you have a pretty dismal life. Are you looking for appearances and impressions? Are you trying to look like, sound like, dress like, and be like some preconceived notion of the way things are supposed to be? Yes, you could spend your entire life pandering to what you think others need.

You can also be completely wrong because originality is the only thing that ultimately sells and creates new directions.

If all life experiences are pre-canned, pre-recorded, and pre-thawed out, where is the authenticity? Where is the legitimate expression of a single human being, not part of a hundred-person team with credits running 20 minutes long at the end of the movie?

Things that take too long are boring for me. I want to live my life in real-time. I know this is difficult for many, but for me, it is more difficult not to be real-time. Because it is only real time that is reality. When you are in nearly real-time or nowhere near real-time, it is not the present moment, so it is not reality. For me, it is not very emotionally relevant. If it is not emotionally relevant, then it cannot be emotionally engaging.

If your goal is to manipulate, then perhaps this makes sense, as does all of this non-real-time activity. But if your goal is not to manipulate but to be an authentic human being and to express how you feel in real-time, then anything other than the present moment is not very satisfying.

This is what First Takes are all about for me. They are about reality. They are about the present moment. They are about authenticity. If you cannot perform something well enough to capture it in the first take, then go back and practice some more until you have a shot at it. If you knew going in that there’s absolutely no chance of capturing something in the first take and that you will never get to the point where there is a chance, then OK, that is what you have to do, and that’s what you have to live with.

But that is not what I have to do, and I know what I have to live with and not what I live for; I live for trying to get to the place where the first take has a reasonable chance of being a good one. If you cannot get to that point, then how can you possibly perform in public? No, not everyone needs to perform in public. But I do, and I like the risk that is involved. I do not want to manipulate or get rid of all of the risks because the only way to do that is to not be real-time.