The key to creativity, as told by Hank Williams

Clayton J. Hester
3 min readFeb 1, 2022

Recently, my family and I have been going back through the colossal “Country Music” series by the Great American Documentarian himself, Ken Burns.

And that has given me an opportunity to think about one seminal but ill-fated creative, Hank Williams (Sr.).

No matter how you feel about country music (don’t lie, I know you’ve got a strong opinion one way or another), there are lessons here that apply to your own creative process.

Hank Williams could not read music, but he wore them:

More about the creative process:

Burns’ documentary tells the story of how Williams dictated the lyrics of “Hey Good Lookin” Little Jimmy Dickens in the course of 15–20 minutes after telling Jimmy that he needed a hit.

And of course, if you know Hank’s repertoire, you know that song became a hit for him, as he ended up recording it himself.

How does someone churn out hit after hit?

How do you just casually dispense fantastic lyrics?

Hank Williams’ lyrics are simple but profound. He was referred to as the “Hillbilly Shakespeare” for his moving and incisive language.

Williams also only lived to the age of 29. He was able to produce hit-after-hit and make a powerful impact in his short life.

Hank wrote real music, from a place of raw emotions.

Despite how definitely his work fits in the lineage of country music, Williams was able to carve out his own spot through his lyrical portraits projected from his own experience.

Hear that lonesome whippoorwill

He sounds too blue to fly

The midnight train is whining low

I’m so lonesome, I could cry

I’ve never seen a night so long

And time goes crawling by

The moon just went behind the clouds

To hide its face and cry

Clayton J. Hester

Country boy. Explorer of the creative process & life, the arts, storytelling, innovation and history of ideas. Omnia in gloriam Dei facite —