I have a mate called Pete*.
Pete is a rockstar**.
Pete does incredible work and asserts he does not prepare for the workshops he takes. No notes.No script. No questions. No nothing.
This is true… but not.
Pete isn’t a liar but he’s not telling the truth.
As I pondered Pete’s preparation, a favourite band, The Necks, came to mind. The Necks are a genre defying trio, piano, double bass & drums. They arrive to gigs, unprepared. They never rehearse their show. They arrive on stage without knowing what they’re about to play. They sit at their instruments and don’t know when to or who will start. Yet one will and they’ll proceed to play extraordinary unabating music for 30 minutes. All improvised. On one remarkable occasion they simultaneously brought their playing to instantaneous silence from driving mesmeric cacophony, as if hitting a wall at high speed. No preparation.
Of course, we all know that it’s not true. It’s not true that The Necks haven’t prepared. They’ve done the work. They’re trained musicians. They’ve each been playing their instruments for over 40 years. They’ve been playing together for around 30 years. They know how to play. They know how to play with each other. They had been preparing for that moment of deliciously spontaneous silence for perhaps 20 years. They knew each other, they knew the signs, they knew when to stop.
Ultimately, however, the trick is to start. You will never be prepared enough. You’re not born ready. Not every performance of The Necks is a perfect masterwork. The key is be prepared as best you can and be prepared to start. Starting prepares you for the next time you start.
Petes no Pinocchio. He’s done the work. He doesn’t turn up to a gig without preparation. He’s been reading. He’s been writing. He’s had conversations. He’s started. He may not have done that the night before, the morning before, the afternoon before, but he’s done the work. He’s come prepared.