Have you ever had writers block or noticed that you have struggled to create something musical? Over the years I have come to realise that limitations can be liberating when it comes to creativity. Make sure you leave tips, suggestions and ideas in the reply section below. I will add the best tips to the list.
After sitting at my keyboard for a whole Saturday and half of Sunday, the realisation that I had no ideas with which I was happy, weighed heavy on my mind. I had spent 10 or 11 hours with manuscript paper and pen in hand and my page was empty apart from scribblings out. My Logic arrange page was empty and I was thoroughly dispirited.
Then a call from my friend Martin to say he was going to a concert and he would pick me up en-route in an hour, launched me into action. I worked furiously for that hour, and scribbled idea after idea. The passing of time went into some hyperdrive-like experience, with me sketching ideas for all the different sections of the piece I was writing. A text from my friend announced that he would be 10 minutes late and I was almost ecstatic that I had been granted extra time in an important creative process. I worked furiously and more ideas flowed. Eventually, he arrived and I was so absorbed in what I had been writing that I could hardly speak.
So what happened?
Being creative is quite a pressure on us as our musical ear and skills develop. As I discuss in my book, we need to catch ourselves off-guard, finding that excitement and lack of judgement in what we do. As an educator, I find young song writers becoming so judgemental about their own material that they often end up writing nothing.
How do we turn that judgement or creative blocking off?
In my own experience, I learned that plenty of time does not equal plenty of creativity. So when I have lots of time, I limit it by planning to go out in an hour or inviting an old friend round to introduce an element of value to the time I have.
This seems to turn the quality judgement barrier off and I tell myself that I can refine the composition later. Refining ideas is where real musical skills come in and not in creating the initial ideas themselves.
Other ideas to switch creativity on are to limit the notes I will use or picking a subject at random. Setting myself an arbitrary set of limitations to narrow down the scary vast desert-like expanse of creative possibilities always works for me. I can then widen out the creative field once I have started. Have you always wondered why the best parties happen in the kitchen? There was no expectation that there would be a party happening in the kitchen. Creativity and time are like that party in the kitchen. (Apologies for the random analogy)
After chatting with my drummer friend, Sam Brown, I realised that creative people often use a range of different strategies to get work done. Sam told me tales of being on the island of Skye for 4 days with no TV, phone or internet and it being a most creative and productive time!
What limitations can you impose to get you started?
How can you turn the ominous task of composing into a fun challenge?
There are many more ideas about creative processes in my how to become a confident performer book at confidentperformer.co.uk
So in short,
- Limit your creative window by inviting somebody over at a given time
- Limit the amount of notes you might use in your composing
- Set yourself a task to write about a very strange subject
- Find out when you are most creative and schedule such work at this time
- If an idea seems a bit weak, leave it, start a new idea and come back to it later
- Note any ideas you have in the day and come back to your notes later
- Collaborate with other people when you feel stuck