X-Factor.

June 30, 2019

 

There are so many variables that converge in the successful growth and productivity of an artist with the factorization of attributes and practices such as: Discipline, Perseverance, Networking, Integrity, Strategic Planning and Talent. However, out of all the variables to be accounted for towards a successful creative career, one of the most integral and overlooked, that is usually the most suppressed and feared in terms of the creative career is Unpredictability: the X-Factor that often propels and shapes the success trajectory and self-actualization of an artist.

 

The factor of unpredictability is an inherent attribute of creation and can be witnessed within the metamorphosis and evolutionary processes of nature and by extension within the inventions and innovations within the arts and sciences. Given that humanity is an extension of the Creator, made in his own likeness and gifted with the ability to create, the factor of unpredictability is to be expected during the creative process and within an artist’s development—adjacent to the laws of creation. The Apostle Paul spoke about the Creator’s connectivity to creation and his qualities—and by extension the qualities of the creative process:

 

“Ever since God created the world, his invisible qualities, both his eternal power and his divine nature, have been clearly seen; they are perceived in the things that God has made.”

 

The unpredictability of the creative life can materialize in the form of snafus, professional derailment, creative destruction, or disruption. Producer, composer, arranger and music mentor Quincy Jones shared the anecdote of his disastrous run in Europe as big band leader of the large Broadway-bound tour, Free and Easy, in his autobiography, “Q”. Jones was forced to take over as manager and financier to return the company home, including his wife and daughter, who accompanied him on the tour, per the following excerpt taken from “Q—The Autobiography of Quincy Jones”:

 

“The plan was that I’d assemble a dream big band, take them to Europe for a few months, and work the kinks out of the show there—I always wanted to try a Broadway show and I agreed. In New York I immediately called every person I ever dreamed about playing with—I got some of the homeys from Seattle—We opened at the Alhambra Theater in Paris just as the Algerian crisis hit. People were afraid to leave their homes at night to get a carton of milk, let alone to see a show, and the show started hemorrhaging money right away. All we needed was to survive two months in Paris; We made it to about six weeks. We needed two more weeks to get to London—two more weeks. We didn’t make it. The show closed.

 

I had no manager, no booking agent, no secretary. After hiring a classical opera singer from the show named Elijah Hodges to act as road manager, I met a young French promoter who lined up sixteen dates for us in France and got advances on them. Knowing I had those dates in my pocket, I chartered a raggedy prop plane to take us to Stockholm, Sweden, where we did two dates. When we got back to Paris, the French promoter had skipped town—with the advances for the sixteen dates. He was gone, with all the money, and I was stuck. We traveled through Europe for ten months like vagabonds. No plan. No agent, no manager, no set itinerary.”

 

The unpredictability of those days no doubt sharpened Mr. Jones’ prowess with managing large groups of differing personalities under pressure--cementing his evolution into a creative and business titan within today's music and business spheres.

 

The quality of unpredictability can also be witnessed in scripture throughout the life of Joseph, who had a gift to interpret dreams. At the outset of coming into awareness of his gift and the greatness that would evolve it, he was trafficked into slavery by his own brothers and afterwards wrongfully incarcerated due to a false report for a total of thirteen years. There was no way he could have expected that his life would be derailed so violently. Throughout the misdirection of his path he continued to exercise his gift, which eventually led to the realization of his dream of greatness and his self-actualization.

 

The successful fruition of the creative life of an artist is anchored by a life of talent, discipline and obedience to calling and gift, but ultimately is shaped and refined by the factor of unpredictability.

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