Creative Reflections

One of my Christmas gifts this year was “Thing a Week” by Jonathan Coulton.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with his work (something I’d recommend fixing by youtubing his work), it’s a series of four albums for which he wrote a song a week.  Admittedly, some are stronger than others, and I can’t help but wonder if he started some songs, cranked out something for that week, and left one he’d been working on for more refinement.  Still, impressive that someone could really crank out a song a week.

I know some of my friends have managed to do stuff like that (the first that comes to mind is Chip, who, I’ve been told, was writing 2-3 songs a week at one point, which to me is really impressive).

I’ve been playing and writing music most of my life (starting at like age 4 on violin and working my way up from there).  I’ve been looking through my personal catalogue and I’m noticing that it usually takes me a month (in one case, about 2 years) to finally get a song written.  I’m just wondering how some of my more talented musical (and writer/cartoonist) friends manage to consistently write that quickly.  The problem tends to be that I get a great idea with one aspect of something (musically, a good set of chords or a good set of lyrics; writing, a good setting and overall concept or a good set of characters) and then lack the other part needed (simply reverse the previous parenthetical).

I know the standard “find a place you like, find utensils you like to get the job done, etc.,” but I’m just wondering if there are things you all do to keep your thought processes rolling rather than stalling like mine often do.  So, in short, help?


6 Responses to “Creative Reflections”

  1. Brandon J. Carr Says:

    The secret is to never stop doing. Know that not every idea will be a winner, but if you’re really dedicated and motivated and disciplined enough, you can make it happen. Sadly, the world doesn’t have time to wait for creative people to be inspired or touched by a muse. You have to do it. And keep doing it. And keep keep doing it. The more you do it, the better you get…not just skill-wise, but you get better at coming up with ideas without convincing yourself you need a certain comfortable chair or the right humidity level or whatever. Inspiration isn’t about coaxing things out of you with totems or environments…the ideas, the creative moments, that which sets you apart from the hackneyed masses is always there inside you. Teach yourself to let it out at will. Work at it. Some ideas will work out, some won’t. It’s the nature of the beast. But it’s better to have something to improve on than have nothing to have an incredibly brilliant nothing at all.


  2. Brandon J. Carr Says:

    That last sentence should have read “But it’s better to have something to improve on than an incredibly brilliant nothing at all.”

    Got distracted by a wide-format printout of one of my comics finishing up.


  3. justamusician Says:

    Thanks, B. I guess that’s one of the things I’ve been struggling with (musically, at least). I write a guitar riff that’s original and all I can come up with are really bland, formulaic lyrics or the other way ’round. Guess I’ll just keep pluggin’ away.

  4. Brandon J. Carr Says:

    Comic up bland, formulaic lyrics or a banal guitar riff is fine. Then you just have to keep working at it. I personally spent way too much of my life thinking that if something didn’t come out brilliantly, it wasn’t worth my time. But it takes work. What about those lyrics make them bland? Find out and fix it. Take what’s formulaic about the guitar riff and turn it upside down. Do the riff backwards. Add a new downbeat. Change the rhyme! Use a thesaurus!

    Sometimes the revision stage can be even more fun than the initial idea. Remember, that initial idea is what you see inside the block of marble. But you have no clue what it will be come until you start chiseling and smoothing and chiseling and smoothing.


  5. Brandon J. Carr Says:

    Become. Not be come. Jeepers, fingers…what’s the deal?


  6. Nathaniel Lee Says:

    Practice really does make perfect. I’ve been doing Mirrorshards for over two years now, and I’ve reached the point where I can just sort of sit for a moment and summon the creative mindset, at least IN RE drabbles. It’s helped with the longer stuff, too; the skills are similar, if not identical.

    Basically, the more you do something, the better you get at everything about it. Someone who exercises every day has to do less limbering up and cooling down to be ready to run, etc. Creativity is a mental state, but like any mental state, it can be forced to a certain extent. The process for me is slightly similar to meditation; a clearing out, a smoothing down, with then my mind sent specifically wandering in a receptive state rather than blanking completely.

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