Prince, New Girl, and the hard work of making things people love

Liz Meriwether, on collaborating with Prince –

It’s not enough to have extraordinary vision; you have to know how to turn that vision into something that exists in the very flawed, complicated world of human beings and money and phone calls.

Last night, the kids crowded into our bed to watch the Prince episode of New Girl. It’s the one that aired after the Seahawks won the Super Bowl in 2014.

As people who make things, the episode’s been a favorite for Jen and I.

It’s not that we’re swooning devotees of Prince or New Girl — It’s more that we recognize making things people love is hard, and when the universe mashes up the creative forces of Prince + New Girl in the aftermath of the Seahawks 1st Super Bowl victory, it’s something that we should slow down to behold.

Know what I mean?

…but what amazed me was his ability to defend and cultivate that vision until it became real in everyone else’s heads, until we could all see it too.

So when Prince died last week, we immediately started talking about that episode and began keeping an eye out for it.

It’s rare that our family just happens to be watching the same thing at the same time these days.

The kids are older, and we embrace this age of infinite device channels, in all that it is, for better and worse.

So “be with” moments where we’re all together and focused on the same thing are rarer these days — They required energy to coordinate and now have to be scheduled if we want to make them happen.

But last night, one of those “be with” moments happened spontaneously — and it was magical.

We’d told the kids to go to sleep and they landed in our bed as a kind of protest.

As we began to fake fight snuggle wrestle in a bed that barely fits us anymore, we turned on the TV and New Girl was on.

Authors Note: No I am not asleep. I am recovering from a tickle snuggle wrestle elbow to the face.

Fox was showing back to back episodes — And there was 5 minutes left in the first episode.

Jen and I began to, kind of excitedly, wonder out loud — Were they showing the Prince episode? — Did we miss it?

Then, as the credits ended on the first episode, the second one started — and we all got excited — THE PRINCE EPISODE!

For 30 minutes we watched and giggled and commented —

“He really used to serve people pancakes at his parties”
“Look at the butterfly! Prince is a friend of butterflies”
“You know Grandma lived around the corner from him”

What a great night of spontaneous joy — something we’d all be hard pressed to design if we tried.

That wasn’t because he was a magical, otherworldly being; it was because he was rigorous, and generous, and he knew how to fight for what he wanted.

Then this morning, while on the elliptical, I read Liz Meriwether’s account of how the episode came together and what it was like collaborating with Prince.

She’s the creator of New Girl and her account is something to behold — Especially for for those of us who work our asses off to make things people love — be they music, TV, or products.

What struck me comes at the very end, where Liz’s captures what the hard work of creative collaboration really looks like — the gritty-hard-messy-complicated-this-whole-thing-might-blow-up-in-our-face-beauty of making things that contrast the entropy that is always trying to devour these endeavors of ours.

Here’s what Liz says about her collaboration with Prince on the episode –

It’s not enough to have extraordinary vision; you have to know how to turn that vision into something that exists in the very flawed, complicated world of human beings and money and phone calls. 

To do that is an endless battle, especially if what you see in your head is unimaginable to other people. 

Obviously he could see things and hear things that no one else could, but what amazed me was his ability to defend and cultivate that vision until it became real in everyone else’s heads, until we could all see it too.
During my worst moments as a writer, I have the feeling of “flying blind.” 

These are the times when I feel I’ve lost the sense of what I want, when my internal compass is spinning, when I close my eyes and I have no vision. 

It was clear, in those few weeks that we made something together, that Prince rarely, if ever, lost his vision. 

That wasn’t because he was a magical, otherworldly being; it was because he was rigorous, and generous, and he knew how to fight for what he wanted. 

It was a beautiful, constant fight. 

It was love.

All I can say to that is, “Amen sister.”

That’s exactly what making things people love feels like to me, too.