In a recent edition of his excellent newsletter companion to his book, The Art of Noticing, my friend Rob Walker wrote about the spirit of DJs digging through record crates featured in the documentary Scratch:
You have to spend the time to sort through the junk to find the treasure. There is no shortcut…. I like to try to apply this spirit of crate-digging to everyday life. The only way to find the good stuff, the special stuff, the genuine moments and the true inspiration, is to first engage with the everyday, the mundane, the seemingly useless, the things nobody else seems to care about. So engage. There is no shortcut; there is no algorithm. If all you do is track what’s trending, then all you’ll ever know is exactly what everyone else already knew. To discover, you have to dig.
I was reminded of chapter six of Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit, entitled, appropriately enough, “Scratching”:
You know how you scratch away at a lottery ticket to see if you’ve won? That’s what I’m doing when I begin a piece. I’m digging through everything to find something. It’s like clawing the side of a mountain to get a toehold, a grip, some sort of traction to keep moving upward and onward….. Scratching can look like borrowing or appropriating, but it’s an essential part of creativity. It’s primal, and very private. It’s a way of saying to the gods, “Oh, don’t mind me, I’ll just wander around in these back hallways…” and then grabbing that piece of fire and running like hell.