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Why You Don't Have Writer's Block - Advice for Young Composers

So, you’ve sat down to write music. You come up with a couple of ideas, a little motif, a rhythm. And whatever you do, you HATE it.

It sucks. Nothing is Original. Nothing is Exciting, Nothing is Interesting. It’s all been done before. I have no good ideas. Guess I’ll die now.

And so you might think that you have the dreaded disease that is WRITER’S BLOCK. Like a Phantom that appears from nowhere. It robs you of your abilities. You’re like a Mage, but Silenced and you are stuck with your terrible rod. No magic for you.

Writer’s Block is that sort of thing that can be really terrifying. Because it is a feeling, usually of fear.

I don’t have any ideas and I am a failure. You get caught in a negativity spiral.

And if any of the things that I have said apply to you. You are in luck. Because you don’t actually have writer’s block.

The story started with you doing exactly what you are supposed to do as a composer. You were coming up with ideas. Basic ideas, but something nonetheless.

The problem isn’t that you aren’t coming up with ideas. You clearly have them.

The problem is that you are shooting down every idea that you have.

You are mixing up two very different processes without realizing it.

This is incredibly common. You are not alone. Everyone struggles with this at first.

First, you have your Creator side. Their job is to make stuff. Not good stuff. Not bad stuff. Stuff. They are usually messy, dirty, and playful.

The Creator wants to take risks. The creator doesn’t care about what other people think. The creator wants to dig a little deeper and explore.

And then you have your Editor side. They take the things that the creator makes and shapes them in a way that other people can engage with them. They are usually clean, prim and proper and very opinionated.

The Editor wants to protect you. The editor does not like risks. The Editor will always be more cautious than the creator.

The Editor cares a great deal about what other people think. (Really what the Editor thinks that other people are thinking)

The reason your editor doesn’t want to take risks is because Creating is a Very Vulnerable thing to do.

It can be easy for someone else to not understand what you are doing. It can be easy for them to write you off, or even worse make fun of you.

And that can really hurt.

And the Editor, does not want that to happen.

So much so, that the Editor can sometimes Cannibalize the Creator.

The creator needs room to play, to explore, to mess around.

And if the Editor is going to hover around like a Helicopter Parent, removing all of the risks and possible danger, then the creator will not get any work done.

And there can be some comfort in not doing work.

But it also means that you aren’t growing, that you aren’t practicing the craft.

That you aren’t being you, not fully.

s the first thing you play on the piano in the morning going to be the most groundbreaking explosively original thing you will make in your life? The Pulitzer

No, it is not. And that is okay.

Because it isn’t supposed to be.

When you start looking an a small idea that you’ve just found and made, and you are expecting it be this fabulous thought out think already, well you are jumping the gun.

That’s like looking at an 8 year old and saying: Why don’t you have a job?

Its a kid, it needs time to grow and time to play.

It is too early in the process. You have to embrace the Not-Knowing. It sucks.

We learn the history of great composers throughout time, and it can be easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to them.

Which can be problematic, because we can sometimes to fall victim to thinking that we have to live up to that history.

The Classical Era is boiled down to 3 dudes. The period lasted a long time, several decades.

There were TONS of people who wrote music in that time. And just because they aren’t remembered doesn’t mean their experience didn’t matter.

You don’t have contribute to the history of the craft. You don’t have to try to be the next chapter in the book.

You serve the world a lot better by making the music that you hear in your head. That is way more interesting.

Because we are all made up of different influences. We are all like a Quilt, with little squares of things that interest us.

Bernard Herrmann, Ligeti and Pink Floyd. Nobuo Uematsu.

The things that we like in them will be slightly different than the next person.

There are kinds of things that make you original and unique.

The instrument you play, the music you love, the way you learned music, the things that shaped you.

Stop trying to write what you THINK other people want you to write.

Let go of trying to write the most original amazing thing and just write.

Stop comparing yourself to the people who came before you.

Stop chasing the novelty of doing something for the first time because it is the first time someone has done it. While that can be cool, the novelty wears out pretty quick. And then you will be stuck chasing the next thing.

What is more interesting and more risky is to actually write the music that you want to hear in the world.

To actually make some strides towards that great idea that you’ve been waiting to work on. The one that you aren’t quite ready for and you haven’t quite topped yet. The one that might be it. Work on that. There is no such thing as being ready.

But there is such a thing as avoiding the work. Waiting to be ready is a way of avoiding the work.

And the other thing about that big idea you have, but are avoiding:

It is a big idea now. You will come up with better in the future. Make it now.

This is true for music, and really any other art form that you can work in.

The content you want to see, is the content you should make.

The styles you like and want to blend? That is far more interesting than doing something for the first time.

It is not going to be easy. Not everyday is going to be a Fun Magical Trip to Disney world.

There will be days that just suck. But you will persevere. All you have to do is show up.

How to Combat the Editor

Go for a walk.

Give yourself permission to play or improvise (not write).

Remember where you are in the process. Discovery vs. Drafting

Give yourself permission to just write for a little bit. Usually just starting can be the best thing.


Just Show Up

Yes You Can

Follow the fun.

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