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The Creative Habit

I’ve borrowed this title from a fantastic book I read while in the States. It’s a book by Twyla Tharpe. If you are experiencing writers block, or just generally find it difficult to get the creative juices following, her book is what you need.

It talks a lot about ritual. It is something that we do naturally but it never occurred to me that it enabled me to be creative. When I say ritual, I don’t mean something weird. No paying homage to the music gods, or sacrificing a baby goat. My ritual is my morning routine…..from getting up, to driving to the studio, to checking my po box, emails and then making my beloved first coffee of the day. When I finally sit down in front of my computer and I’ve taken my first sip of coffee, I’m ready to start.

Everybody has a routine. I guess the importance is to make sure you stick to it. When we have a nice predictable routine running, we eliminate distraction. We also send a message to our brain that the next step is to write. You may not get results immediately, but if you repeat your ritual every day, eventually you will.

I composed 10 pieces of music while in the States from March to May. Initially I found it impossible to feel inspired. I had to create a brand new routine, as I was in a completely foreign place, with a completely different set of barriers, distractions, facilities…but to name just a few things. I eventually found a groove which included buying a coffee, taking a short walk, and then sitting down at my laptop.

I realized quickly that composing is a muscle that need exercise, just like any other. I had spent the bulk of the last 15 years producing other peoples songs, and other directors’ film scores. Even though these are creative endeavors, being handed the concept, the movie clip, the song lyrics and melody for me is a completely different beast. Sitting in that room in Indiana, without a prompt of any kind, I discovered that I had neglected that part of me that could create from scratch.

I couldn’t think of a clever idea to get started, so I decided to to start with a stupid one. My first album in 1995 was called “Pictures”. Back then, I used mental images as my starting point for all the tracks….almost like a musical photo album. All the pictures were places I had seen, been to, and experienced. I don’t remember whether I struggled with which places to write about, but regardless, I got the album finished.

No longer feeling the angst and turmoil of my teenage years, I wondered what experiences might inspire me this time around. I ended up writing about the very feeling of emptiness and lack of inspiration which was plaguing me. This completely turned it around for me. I wound up with some tracks that I am happy with.

This process reminded me of just how much work and consideration went into my first album. Time tends to erase many facets of these kinds of things, and I found that my memory of the process was quite idealistic.

Long story short….I was excited and relieved to discover that the creative habit is always accessible. It never leaves you, and ANYBODY can do it. For me, my daily routine is crucial to getting into that creative frame of mind. I recommend that book!