Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lucy and The Chocolate Factory

We've seen it a few times; Lucille Ball is shoving chocolates into her apron pockets and her mouth to hide the fact that she can't wrap them fast enough as they spill by the thousands off the conveyor belt.  When I mention this analogy to people in radio, there's always a laugh and I never need to explain further.

We want to be perfect chocolate-wrappers.  We hold ourselves to writing standards that we admire.  This is inevitable.  We watch Jimmy Kimmel or Family Guy and we think, "Why can't I be that funny?  Why am I not that witty?  Why didn't I think of that?"  We forget that those jokes are written by teams, TEAMS, now, of writers.  Family Guy has around 25 writers.  Even comparing ourselves to stand-up comedians is apples to pasta - they have days, weeks, months to prepare and process.  We bite right into the raw material every day and have, at most, hours to prepare.

It's a great thing to aspire to be at the top of your craft.  It can also exhaust you if you never reach the brass ring and exhaustion is discouraging, which does not feed creativity.  Excitement, pleasure and peak experience feed creativity.

Shortly after deregulation in the late 1980's the philosophy that "Fear is good," seeped down hallways from sales offices and cubicles like waves of toxic gas, wafting up into microphones.  We were told to "Shut up and play the hits,"  Concert tickets started going to clients; we were no longer invited.  We heard all about how we were now "Barking dogs" and we were expected to sing "Amen!" at evangelistic meetings praising the technology that would put millions of us out of work. 

These are excellent tactics to use on bullet-proof egos in sales departments.  They were devastating to the creative atmosphere of radio.

Despite the fast-and-more setup of radio that's been humming along for the past 30-something years, creativity lives anyway.  It can't be killed.  It is the human compunction responsible for our existence.  Building a shelter, making boots and planting crops are all creative endeavors.  Humans are here because we are creative, we are social, and we tell stories. Disc jockeys are still here because we have such a love for stories and communication and reaching out to an audience with heart and soul that we can't stop. We can't stop, and we can't be stopped.

The conveyor moves along at speed and we keep wrapping, but we must remember that our wrappings are the value.  We must never allow the hum of the machine to drum that knowledge out of us.

We must never forget that radio starts with us.

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