When we start out it is very difficult to figure out how to begin work on a piece. If you are lucky there will be a burst of inspiration. Quite often that is followed by a blank stare. What do I do next? Where do I go? How will I ever finish? It is common and very easy to slip into a depression at this point to where you stop work and never finish.. We all go through this…everyone.
How does one combat this? The key is learning how to approach the process and to learn how you behave in the midst of this process. The better you understand yourself and your process, the better chance you have of being effective.
Once you decide on the original idea….commit to it. This is crucial. Defining your goals in real terms, language etc gives the structure needed to get to the end. I’m reminded of an Igor Stravinsky quote: “the more restrictions I place on myself, the freer I become”. At first glance this may seem counter-intuitive. In fact, it is just the opposite. Without definition it is impossible for your listener to understand what you are doing. If you look at a great painting, the intent of the artist will be clear. The mystery will come from your interpretation….what you think of the work. Great art provokes a response. Music is no different. Limiting the scope of what you are attempting will train your mind to focus. And, the creative mind will look for ways to take these few symbols or characters and make something new.
Now it is time to go to work. Sitting at the desk is mental exercise…not unlike going to the gym and working out. Instead of lifting weights you will be in a constant problem solving state.
As you work on a piece you will get distracted, stop and start, come back to it another day. You will find no limit to number of distractions you will potentially face. Take a minute and jot your goal down on a piece of paper or index card. Defining your goals, committing to an idea will give you an object to refer to as time passes…reminding you of where you are going.
I’m also a HUGE fan of the idea of getting to the end. It is impossible to evaluate a work without having something complete to judge. One of the huge advantages of midi is that enables you to switch gears and become an audience instead of a participant. Listening to what you’ve done with a critical ear…judging your work not from your ego (aren’t I cool?) but from an objective and analytical point of view (how does this help me achieve my goal?) is the key to growth.
Steps to take:
Commit to an idea
Limit your possibilities
Define your goals
Putting in the time
Judging your work objectively
Understanding your process and training yourself to think in these terms will move you forward as an artist…if you do the work. That much I can guarantee.
Like any muscle, the more you exercise it, the easier it becomes.