In a fog of mourning last week, perusing every Prince interview available on Youtube, I found an odd little visit he made to The View some years ago.
The hosts harass him until he leaves, but before he does he drops an important piece of wisdom. After Barbara Walters leans in to say that Justin Beiber had told them that he wanted to have a career as long as his, Prince just smiles. She says it to flatter him, but he isn’t flattered. His look is gentle but deeply knowing.
“The key to longevity is to learn every aspect of music that you can. I hope that he does pick up an instrument and get a good teacher.”
Prince was dedicated to the craft of music. He never cut a corner in any aspect of his work. This was an artist who gave himself over wholly to a pursuit of excellence. Prince exuded such joy in greatness. His remark reminds us that greatness takes sacrifice and the humility to be a learner.
It was such a beautiful thing for him to say to such a dumb remark.
I’m instructed by people who don’t focus on things like longevity in the market, but rather dare to embrace the lifelong work of getting excellent. It takes courage to give up the time and energy required to be the best we can possibly be. There are no hacks to true excellence. It takes learning and persistence and time.
I so wish that Prince’s excellence as a musician and performer could have translated into his actual, physical longevity.
(But my grief causes me to digress.)
As a writer, Prince reminds me to find the best teachers through reading and workshops, and to learn every aspect of storytelling that I can. I’m going to do as he says.
My latest novel features a very young rock star whose own pursuit of excellence cannot protect him from an act of betrayal from the one person he trusts the most. Out of my three published books, two have rock stars in them. I might have a thing about rock stars.