Composing Without Deadlines

Are you one of the millions of artists who sit on a pile of unfinished, or even unstarted, ideas? Why is it when we have deadlines we can pump out hours of music in just a few weeks but when the deadline is not there it can take weeks to write a single note? Is it because we’re not inspired, our talent has mysteriously walked out, we’re suddenly lazy, suffer from procrastination or is there something else getting in the way?

Several years ago I was given a contract to deliver 84 minutes of music in 13 days, fully orchestrated, mixed, delivered and with a very (let me repeat VERY) low budget that prevented me from being able to hire the staff I needed. That was producing over 6 minutes of finished music per day… and yet somehow I did it.

When working under that time pressure there were no second chances, no time to re-work, re-write… whatever I did had to be good enough. After delivering the music and getting more than an hour or two of sleep my brain slowly unfrazzled itself. I found a luxurious moment of time to stop and think about what had just happened when a question popped into my mind: What if I had got writer’s block during those 13 days?

In that moment of reflection it dawned on me that under time constraints I had to accept my first gut instinct and just go with it. It’s not that my talent or abilities changed. It was my decision making process that had changed. I couldn’t stop to question, ‘what would other people think?’ My first response was my only available response.

When deadlines aren’t there the biggest enemy to creativity returns: DECISION MAKING. When we step back to over analyze, over question, wonder what ‘everyone else will think’ we complicate the decisions we intuitively make. It’s not writer’s block that slows, or even kills, creativity. It’s our own decision making that stops anything from being finished.

So, if you’re stuck, not knowing what notes of music, lyrics or piece to write next don’t overthink it. Just MAKE A DECISION. There will be two consequences to that decision: 1) You will actually like what you do and will end up with a finished piece of music or 2) you won’t like it, and you can go back and make alterations.

Even if that rare second option pops it’s ugly head up and stares you in the face it’s still better than having spent your time ‘wondering’ what to do. Although time might have been spent you’ve still got something out of it. Music, experience and time spent doing what you love.

So, let’s re-write the old adage: If it weren’t for the last minute nothing would ever get done and replace it with: If it weren’t for making a decision nothing would ever get done. Stop letting the last minute dictate your direction and decide to just write the next note. It’s amazing what you’ll discover…

What do you think?

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