Why does everybody think they can write?

Ten years ago, a book crept into the public consciousness and has remained there, the author became internationally famous and gives high-priced speeches to corporations in far-flung communities to this day. That book was “The Tipping Point,” that author was Malcolm Gladwell.

First and foremost, Gladwell can write. And he can tell a story, via both prose and voice. Just because you know how to type and speak, please don’t believe you can do the same.

Then again, unlike Gladwell you were not an unknown reporter before you broke through. You want to go from 0-60 instantly, and despite a hundred years of automotive development, this is still an impossibility. You believe if you did it, we’re interested.

Now you’ve got to start somewhere. But even though you can spam me and put your track on iTunes I’ll tell you where you live, OBSCURITY!

Yesterday someone e-mailed me the original version of Frank Zappa’s “Status Back Baby,” from 1963:

Frank Zappa – I’m Losing Status at the High School

Yes, long before the Beatles, when the Four Seasons ruled, Frank Zappa was cutting his insightful music to absolutely no acclaim, he had to wait years until not only the market was ready for him, but he’d refined his recording to wide audience palatability.

So if you’re thinking you made it so we should care, I’ll say that despite the Internet, some things never change. The greats are still ten plus year overnight sensations.

But we all wrote in school. Can’t we write a book?

I’m reading the new business self-help book, “Contagious: Why Things Catch On.” Written by a tirelessly self-promoting Wharton professor, the information is good, but the writing is subpar, I cannot recommend it, despite it containing a wealth of insight. If your book doesn’t call to me in the middle of the night, if I can’t read it without my eyes rolling into the back of my head, I can’t recommend it.

Gladwell knows writing is about story. And the author, Jonah Berger, is smart enough to know he’s got to contain anecdotes, but the book is mostly analysis. Gladwell shows through example, Berger explains.

Kind of like our modern musical artists. They can Facebook and Tweet, they can market like crazy, but they don’t know great music must contain emotion, it must have the seed of its own virality inside.

There’s an example of virality in Berger’s book, an article that leapt on to the “New York Times” most e-mailed list, about “how fluid and gas dynamic theories were being used in medical research.”

Huh? Who cares?

That’s exactly Berger’s point.

But accompanying the article was a picture of a cough. You could actually see it. People forwarded the article because it hit them emotionally, they were in awe.

Just like I constantly tell people my favorite Beatles track is “Every Little Thing.”

You can break down the chords, you can analyze the lyrics, but the bottom line is it hits me emotionally, it makes me feel something. All the great records do. Does yours?

As Berger says:

“When we care, we share.”

But he goes on from there:

“as Albert Einstein himself noted, ‘The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the power of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.'”

That’s why you hate the Top Forty. The essence of music is too often absent. Blame the executives, who control production. Used to be they gave free reign to the artists, but in search of money, they squeezed the essence out. Music is not formula, it’s magic.

Kind of like Roxy Music’s “More Than This.” Listening to it instantly takes you away, puts you in a mood that has you wondering what inspired Bryan Ferry to write it.

And there are further gems in Berger’s book. But it’s gonna stop cold, its virality is limited, because it’s lacking the emotion of a great storyteller, a great singer, come on, listen to John Lennon sing “Every Little Thing,” he’s not singing words on a page, he’s been through something, he’s singing TRUTH!

So since you can text someone instantly, can watch video on demand, people believe you can create art the same way.

But this is patently untrue. Art is usually concocted off the grid.

But when done right, it sells itself.

You don’t want to know that, you want to quantify it, you want to believe it’s easy, but it’s not.

“Contagious: The Secret Behind Why Things Catch On”

“The Mysterious Cough, Caught on Film”

The Beatles, “Every Little Thing”

Roxy Music, “More Than This

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