Some of us composers are overachievers. We aim to be prolific, and we dream big. Aside from our quest to write new music, many of us (myself included) also work a day job or another music job, like teaching or gigging. We lead full lives.
Since time is so precious and life expects much of us, we need to be deliberate when choosing projects. How can we set healthy, sustainable goals when we sit down to compose? Or should we? How should we measure our output? What will increase our skills the most over the long term? These are questions I often ask myself.
Here are two examples of goals a composer could set:
“I’ll write five songs and a suite for solo piano before the end of the summer.”
“From now until the end of the summer, I’ll write music every single day without exception, whether it’s for 5 minutes or 50.”
The first goal was measured in terms of output, while the second was measured in terms of discipline.
I don’t consider myself overly prolific as a writer…yet. But I think this is because I’ve spent way too much time concentrating on the output and forgetting the daily craft of writing. Making music a daily discipline has been a life-long endeavour for me at the piano, and it is becoming the same as a composer. I’ve started to enjoy the fruits of this change, as I’ve been able to enter two composer’s contests with brand-new pieces and premiere a new work while starting a demanding new job. I’ve found that working under pressure is addictive, but the foundation of daily work has to be there too. In the long run, it’s probably healthier too.
If you’re a composer, what kind of goals do you set? Do you have a daily routine?