So I've been reading 'The Making of Star Wars' and 'The Making of Indiana Jones' (both big, thick, meaty books that you could probably use for weight training), and it got me thinking a bit about George Lucas...and then I read 'When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?', one of George Carlin's last books, and I noticed something they had in common. They're both ferociously lazy. Lucas has had a downturn in quality ever since the early 1990s, and 'When Will Jesus...' reads like it wasn't edited at all. (Seriously, it reads like Carlin just typed until he'd gotten three hundred pages of words, and his editor just rubber-stamped it.)
And this got me formulating a theory. (Actually, a hypothesis, but I don't think we'll need to worry about the scientific community's opinions on this.) My theory is this: All creative people have roughly the same percentage of good ideas.
Now, that doesn't mean all creative people are the same; Lucas is an absolutely brilliant visionary, and anyone who doubts that should really read 'The Making of Star Wars' to see just how ahead of the curve he was, and just how much that movie transformed film-making as we know it. But the other thing you notice when you read 'The Making of Star Wars' is just how much he was throwing out. He was constantly redrafting and redefining and recreating the script from the frankly incoherent gibberish it started as into one of the truly timeless and enduring films of the 20th century. In other words, some people have better good ideas than others, some people have more ideas than others, some people's internal crap detectors are better than others, but everyone is churning out about the same percentage of good ideas.
This is the problem with guys who make it big, like Lucas and Carlin (and I'll toss in Frank Miller here, too, and I'm sure commenters can add to the list ad nauseum.) Everyone, no matter how brilliant, needs some help in sorting out the good ideas from the bad ideas. Nobody's crap detector is one hundred percent perfect. So when Lucas had to justify his every idea to a skeptical studio, he was forced to sharpen and trim and cut all the weak stuff out. When he had $200 million just lying around to make a movie with and a studio begging to distribute it sight unseen, he made a movie that was flabby, underthought, and with a lot of bad ideas overshadowing the good stuff. (And again, I say this as someone who really does think Lucas is brilliant, and it's one of the great tragedies of Hollywood film-making that 'Star Wars' soured him on directing for so long.)
Ultimately, what I'm saying is that there's a belief in the creative industries (film, prose, music, et cetera) that the vision of the artist is paramount, and that all oversight ever does is compromise it. Everyone wants to see the "Director's Cut", everyone complains about the editor butchering the work, everyone thinks that this story would be better if the artist was just left alone. But it's not true. For every one empty suit that just doesn't get it, there are a dozen talented editors and producers who can function as additional crap detectors, helping you sort your good stuff from your bad. And when you become too successful to listen to them, your work is bound to suffer.
Your work, that is. Everything I write is brilliant.