Music vs. Inspiration

As a composer I have been sometimes been asked “Where do your musical ideas come from?” or “How do you just make something up out of nothing?”. It seems that people are interested in finding out where creativity begins. When I was younger I used to think that great composers just waited for inspiration to strike, like a lightning bolt. They would have a real “Eureka!” moment, run to the piano, maybe in their underwear, and presto, symphony written.

It turns out there’s more to creativity than that.

Crow caught on camera

I took this photo a couple of weeks ago with my iPhone. I was down on Dallas Road, a popular spot for joggers and dog walkers. It was a great view on a clear day and I was in perfect position to take a nice landscape photo. I held up my phone and took the photo. Afterwards I discovered that a black crow had flown through the frame!

So what? it’s just a somewhat ugly bird that got in the way of my nice landscape, right? That was my first thought. My next thought was how lucky I was to shoot just as it flew past. I didn’t go out to take a photo of a crow, but that’s what I ended up with.

I kept the photo as a reminder that creative work is filled with surprises. Sometimes as a composer you just need to show up and do your work. Open the shutter and see what happens. (Okay, I’m mixing camera metaphors now.)

Lately my commitment has been to spend time writing music each morning before work. Inspiration comes and goes and isn’t consistent day to day. But I know that if I’m not spending regular time writing, I’ll miss some great ideas. And all you really need is one great idea to start a killer piece of music.

Inspiration is still a mystery to me. But one thing is clear. A commitment to write consistently will enable you to create ideas you never dreamed of.

Do you have a commitment to your writing?

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