In the Country Music Hall of Fame are two yellowed pages torn carelessly from a comb-bound journal. You might struggle to find them. They’re certainly less flashy than the glossy guitars, the sparkly gold records, and the rhinestone Nudie Suits. But track them down if you’re visiting. They’re Dolly Parton’s hand-scrawled lyrics to Jolene, and they are a beautiful mess – lines crammed between lines; lines thrown down so hard and so quickly, it looks like Parton’s pencil could hardly keep up with the inspiration.
There is something wonderfully reassuring in seeing early drafts of songs and scripts and stories and works of visual art – the first stages where ideas are still getting fleshed out but aren’t yet ready for primetime.
Even adults, if they want to create something they’re really proud of, go through the revising process. How many times have I heard myself say that to students? But sometimes, especially when the beginnings of a new project look especially ugly, I still need to remind myself that it’s true.
My sister and I visited the Jim Henson exhibit at Seattle’s MoPOP (Museum of Popular Culture) yesterday afternoon. Among the displays of puppets, movie props, and costumes were original scripts and show treatments. This image below? It’s an early vision Henson had for what would become Fraggle Rock. If you’re familiar with the show, you know how much distance there was yet to travel between this vision and the brilliant show that eventually reached the television screen.
Trust the process.