Rod Corp has assembled an absolutely amazing collection of the world's best writers, architects, artists, intellectuals, movie makers, musicians and composers and complied a list of quotes of them explaining how they get their job done. Below is are the just a few quotes from the nearly exhaustive list.
"You can only work for people that you like
If you have a choice never have a job
Some people are toxic avoid them
Professionalism is not enough or the good is the enemy of the great
Less is not necessarily more [aka: Just enough is more]
Style is not to be trusted
How you live changes your brain
Doubt is better than certainty
Solving the problem is more important than being right
Tell the truth"
Scorsese is driven to make film; can't write, hates shooting film, loves editing:
Scorsese enjoys the money and the effects it enables him to create, but not the ensuing commercial pressures that demand films with so little dialogue a Hispanic illegal with six words of English can still follow the plot. "I'm drawn constantly to projects that need a sizeable budget. For that money, what can I give them? Everyone is on a tightrope."
He admits he became "obsessional" about Gangs of New York in 2002, which went over its $97m budget and lost millions; no other director would have been so indulged. Much as the film world loves "Marty", some will tell you privately he can be a nightmare to work with: "Tinker, tinker, tinker," says one. [...]
"You say 'I've got to make a film, it's what I do'. And when you make one, you want to be allowed to make a few more." [...]
There is no hint of retirement, because he is obsessed, just like Hughes [whom his 2004 film The Aviator is about]. "I wish I did know something more than movies so as I could make a living, I wish I could write; I envy Woody Allen that. But I do have an obsession with the actual moving image. I hate shooting, there are too many people on set and too many things can go wrong." But alone in the editing suite is the nearest he feels to life having purpose.
Steve Reich & Philip Glass
Steve Reich's (and indeed Philip Glass's) music lends itself strongly to a How we work because it has a strong performative and methodological component. But until we dig into that, read this from a 2006 profile and try imagine what music for moving bookcases he and Glass must have hummed together as they humped sideboards up staircases and carried boxes of records for music-loving householders:
In 1966 Reich moved back to New York, where he got to know Philip Glass. At one point they had a moving company together; Glass also worked as a plumber while Reich drove a cab.
Works every single day of the year, including Sundays and Christmas.
Notoriously, gave up poetry by the age of nineteen.
Bill Murray has replaced an agent with a freephone number and an insistence upon asynchronous communication. From The Times (link may expire so here we are):
By definition, Hollywood stars must have agents and publicists. Not Bill Murray. He has never had a publicist and, five years ago, he fired his agents. "I said I didn’t ever want to speak to them again, and I never did," he says. "I like to cut my own lawn now. I don’t need a landscaper."
Now Murray’s only contact with the film business is through a freephone number. If people need to talk to him - perhaps producers who want him to star in a film - they have to call the number and leave a message. (Of course, they have to find the number first.) If he feels like it, he will call back. Often, he doesn’t. Sometimes, he’ll go for weeks without even listening to the messages. It took Sofia Coppola hundreds of phone calls and seven months to get him to look at the script for Lost in Translation. Even then, she wasn’t sure he was going to make the film until he appeared on the set on the first day of the shoot in Tokyo. Other directors have apparently been told to leave scripts in a phone booth somewhere near his home outside New York, up the Hudson River. On a recent film, a production assistant who needed to contact him was told to call his freephone and leave a number for a phone that she would not pick up, so he could call her back without having to talk to her. Of course, he doesn't see this as strange or eccentric. He likes to be accessible, he says, but on his own terms.
Hirst has three assistants working solely on the butterfly pictures - he's Britain's biggest importer.
Waldemar Januszczak went to visit Hirst's new studio in Lambeth in March 2005, and found him rotating assistants on his new photo-realistic paintings to ensure that the authorial hand remains identifiably his, rather than theirs':
The new painting studio is the size of a large parish church. Though perhaps taller. Stuck to the walls in a ring, as if by centrifugal force, is an assortment of boiler-suited assistants, carefully dabbing away. That's photorealism for you. It can't be done from a distance. Damien's in a boiler suit too, and takes a bit of spotting. He looks well. A couple of pounds heavier, perhaps. Lots more polar-bear hair in the barnet. But he's still on the wagon, and it is still giving him energy to burn. Usually I would let him gabble at me for a while before turning to his art, because Damien is such an entertaining gabbler. But I simply cannot believe what I see when I enter, and brush past him to take a closer look. Of all the things that this gore-splattered chameleon could have become, becoming a photorealist is perhaps the least likely. [...]
Damien explains how it works. First he identifies a photograph that he wants to re-create. Then he gets his people to phone up and get permission to use it, while never revealing it's for Damien Hirst. [...] The teams of assistants do most of the bread-and-butter copying — "If it was me I'd paint it monochrome and stick a fag packet in the middle" — and Damien patrols the results, jazzing up this and that: a dab here, a daub there. He's just been working on the blood pouring down from a football hooligan's face and takes me over to inspect his handiwork. He's been adding glazes. Making it look more bloody.
Don't the assistants get upset when he dabs about with their paintings? Doesn't he sometimes spoil what's there? All the time, he giggles, proudly, but they are not their paintings, they're his. And to ensure this is clear, he swaps the assistants around from picture to picture so nobody is ever responsible for the whole thing. Smart strategy.
JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER
Foer's collection of blank sheets of writing paper started by accident: a friend was sorting Isaac Bashevis Singer's belonging for a university archive, and gave the uppermost sheet of Singer's stack of unused typing paper to Foer. The sheet became a mystic writing pad for Foer, a mirror for writing, and the collection followed.
But I was wrong about the empty page. Or I was wrong about myself. A relationship developed. I found myself thinking about the piece of paper, being moved by it, taking it out of its envelope several times a day, wanting to see it. I had the page framed and put it on my living room wall. Many of the breaks I took from looking at my own empty paper were spent looking at Singer's.
Looking at what? There were too many things to look at. There were the phantom words that Singer hadn't actually written and would never write, the arrangements of ink that would have turned the most common of all objects--the empty page--into the most valuable: a great work of art. The blank sheet of paper was at once empty and infinite. [...]
And it was also a mirror. As a young writer--I was then contemplating how to move forward after my first effort--I felt so enthusiastically and agonizingly aware of the blank pages in front of me. How could I fill them? Did I even want to fill them? Was I becoming a writer because I wanted to become a writer or because I was becoming a writer? I stared into the empty pages day after day, looking, like Narcissus, for myself.
I decided to expand my collection. Singer's paper was not enough, just as Singer's books would not be enough in a library, even if they were your favorites. I wanted to see how other pieces of paper would speak to Singer's and to one another, how the physical differences among them would echo the writers. I wanted to see if the accumulation of emptiness would be greater than the sum of its parts. So I began writing letters to authors--all of whom I admired, only one or two of whom I had ever corresponded with--asking for the next sheet of paper that he or she would have written on.
"I think people who are not artists often feel that artists are inspired. But if you work at your art you don't have time to be inspired. Out of the work comes the work."
Burgess was prolific, writing six novels in 1960. "I refuse no reasonable offer of work and very few unreasonable ones" he would confess in 1978.
It's unclear whether this urgency can be attributed to a doctor predicting that a brain tumour left him with (as much as) a year to live:
After fighting in World War II, he worked for five years as a colonial education officer in Malaya. While he was there, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and a doctor told him he had only one year to live. He later wrote: "I had been granted something I had never had before: a whole year to live. I would not be run over by a bus tomorrow, nor knifed on the Brighton racetrack. I would not choke on a bone. If I fell in the wintry sea I would not drown. I had a whole year, a long time. In that year I had to earn for my prospective widow... I would have to turn myself into a professional writer."
Knocked a wall down in his studio in order to fit in the canvas that would become Mural (1943), for Peggy Guggenheim's apartment. But he didn't commence work on it until 15 hours before it was due to be delivered - "it was a stampede", he would later report.
When it was delivered, Guggenheim found that it was eight inches too long to fit into the space. On Marcel Duchamp's advise it was chopped down to fit.