Getting yourself out of the way

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I really enjoyed hearing the director and writer Adam McKay—who has made not-fiction movies like The Big Short, Vice, and a forthcoming Theranos movie, as well as entirely fictional comedies such as Anchormandiscussing creative process on the Longform podcast. It was a little exhilarating to hear him discuss the complexity of producing work in this moment, the feeling that happens when inspiration hits you, and his belief that there are a million ways to tell a story (and that the right way now might not be the same as the right way in a few years.)

One critical lesson, I think, was that when you make something great, it’s partly from you, but it’s bigger than that—it takes on a life of its own, and your job is often to just get yourself out of its way. Which captures, I think, why any of us make anything.

“Sometimes you do a project and then you look back and you’re like, Ah, shit. I let some of myself get in the way of that. It sucks, but it’s also a part of it. And there are so many times where you’re excited that the story did take off, the wind did catch the sail and it went off on its own. And that just feels so good that it far outweighs the times when you make a mistake, or let something go wrong, or too long, or hit the wrong tone. Which is going to happen. There’s no way around it. But those times when it all just catches perfectly—it’s just so exciting that you keep doing it.”

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