John Mayer, an incredibly influential and accomplished guitarist, speaks about the evolution of his personal skill set in this recording at Abbey Road. These were a few points I found fascinating is his commentary on creativity:
- Personal development comes about through failure, often times in the failure to imitate someone else’s success.
- Exponential development of any skill is easy at the outset, but that type of rapid improvement doesn’t last forever.
- It takes a lot of time — years — to develop your own creative style.
- Whatever you’re producing changes over the years. The work of year one is different than the work of year ten which is different than the work of year fifteen.
- Learning the technical side of creativity is the easy part. You spend the rest of your life learning how to employ those technical skills.
Here’s my transcript of the video:
Well when you’re first starting out with something like guitar, like an instrument, like anything really, you can just keep doubling your capacity by the week. You’re 100% better next month, then 100% better the next month compared to the beginning. So I was completely enamored with that and wasn’t into singing or writing or doing anything I was just in a kind of hands-on bootcamp for playing guitar.
About 17 years old I wanted to start writing songs and I realized I didn’t know anyone who could sing them. So I just started right in trying to sing and it was … [shakes head in disgust]. It took a lot of years to develop a more boiled-down vocal sound. You develop a style when you fail to sound exactly like the person you’re trying to sound like. Even in the songs I try to cover sometimes I’ll be really afraid that it’s a facsimile of the original song and then I go back and listen to the original song and I realize how many of my own instincts have made their way into there. So a lot of it is accidental, you know? What’s really interesting in the growth of all this is that I have gotten to be a better singer within the arc of my records. The way I sang in my first record is completely different from the way I’ve been singing in the last couple. I think now I’ve kinda found my way. Singing is a sticky and kind of hard-to-manage thing sometimes.
I don’t get twice as good on the guitar these days, you know, I haven’t for a while. But what I’m picking up now are the kind of like zen things, just in terms of thinking, because I have the technical side down now. It’s just a matter of ‘how does that implant itself in my mind’. And that’s kind of the ultimate - that you spend the rest of your life figuring out.