The effortful way

I watched all ten episodes of The Outsider over the weekend (it’s fantastic), and was particularly enamored of the musical score. I looked up the composers and was unsurprised to find they’d worked on other moody shows I love like The OA.

I found an interview about their process. The effortful approach they described to creating interesting sound textures caught my eye:

We’ll also run a lot of these sounds through tape machines and up board distortions too. We have a lot of synths, so we’ll run things into these filters. We’ve also done some stuff through guitar pedals. We also have these old tape players that we dump things into and then you can slow it down from there. We mess it up and then put it back into Pro Tools. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. We do a lot of that.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.” A lot of my best work happens that way. Not the hard way, per se, but the effortful way. The way you wouldn’t do it if you knew what you were going to do from the beginning.

I’m not alone in this approach. Designer Frank Chimero on going ‘once through, cleanly’:

If you sit down and what you make is bunk, you walk away, come back later and start over. You don’t keep any of what you’ve done before, you only retain the memory of what went wrong. It’s a silly method, but it works for me.

Author Rachel Khong on writing way more than she needs:

If you wanted to be the most efficient writer possible, you definitely wouldn’t work the way that I’m working. But to me it’s almost like I don’t know how to write any other way. I think I have to just write a lot in order to eventually figure out what I’m trying to say.

For my money, the right way to do the work is the way that gets the work done. Don’t get me wrong, I love to optimize workflows, set up hacks and tweaks, and spends hours researching just the right tool for the job. But none of those things are job one. Job one is doing the job, however silly or effortful your approach may be.

Photo by Lucas van Oort on Unsplash
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