I just spent way too long trying to track down a quote that I heard a few months ago. To no avail. This is essentially what it said: “Writing your first draft is like sitting down to a meal with rotten food.” I thought this was hilarious at the time, but since then, I’ve been experiencing it in real time as I’ve been trying to finish the big piece that has been really challenging to tie up (and now I find the reference to rotten food even more amusing than before!). The funny thing is that even for the most brilliant musicians (as a general rule), something inspiring and brilliant doesn’t often come out on the first try. It usually comes out rocky and stuttering initially. Why does that surprise us? It sounds, well, human…And yet, when we sit there looking at what we feel like is rotten food, it is hard for us to believe anything good can come of it, and we often want to just throw it all in the garbage. (Let’s make that “I just want to throw it in the garbage!”)
But if we throw it away at that stage, we will never get to experience the magic that comes through the process. It’s the editing that cleans up all the rough spots and messes and makes it glow. That’s not to say that you or I never have moments that it just flows and we feel full of inspiring ideas. However, at least for me, this “stroke of genius” happens infrequently and for brief moments. This is good news, because otherwise, until genius strikes, we have to wait for it. With reality as it is, get that first draft down (gag if you must) so the process of refining, editing, and shining can take place. The trick, I’m learning, is to move my work through the process of drafting, editing, finishing faster so that my brain learns when it sees rotten food that there are more courses to come- and it’s worth staying at the table!
“If you only try the things you believe you can do, you’ll only accomplish the things you already knew you could do. But if you give yourself permission to fail, you’re free to try the things that seem completely beyond your reach. And that’s when magic happens.”
Today I wanted to spend time writing music, but for some reason I was in a real “blah” type funk. Nothing in particular was going badly, I just couldn’t get myself motivated to write. So I decided to go on a run. Best idea I’ve had all day. The fresh air felt wonderful, and the snow had melted off my little trail that I like to run on (there’s a hill that I run up first that gives me a great burst of “I got this” right off the bat!). Don’t get any big ideas- I’m not training for a marathon or anything- I go about a mile. But it is just right for me.
Anyway- as I was running, I saw a man in his 60’s on a bike, and I saw that he rode into a driveway (presumably his driveway) that I was just about to run past. He wasn’t facing me when I looked over to say hello, so I kept running and assumed he would rather not interact. It took me by surprise when a moment later he called out,
“How’s your PMA?”
I turned to look at him (still running) with a confused look on my face.
“I don’t know what that means!” I called back, amused. (I think initially I thought he was going to say PMS and I was about to be really confused why a stranger would yell that out).
“Positive Mental Attitude!!” he explained with a smile.
Duh- I could have figured that one out.
“Oh! Great!” I yelled over my shoulder and gave him a thumbs up.
I don’t remember his reply, but I smiled as I ran on. First of all, what an awesome human being. It makes me want to go calling out “How’s your PMA?” to the next few strangers I pass :).
But besides that, it got me in a totally different frame of mind. PMA can do that, you know. And a run. So, stranger, how’s your PMA?
Friends, it’s been a while! Outside it’s sunny and white (we enjoy 4 seasons up here!) and it’s been a great day so far.
I’m in the middle of several projects but don’t have a lot of finished pieces to post just yet. Instead today I thought I’d share 3 things about me.
1- I LOVE nutella. I eat it by the spoonful, with a banana, on bread (my favorite!) or on icecream. I think it’s more than the flavor that gets me- it’s a very nostalgic treat. Before you could even buy it in the United States, my cousins who lived in Europe sent it to our family for Christmas. I can remember eating nutella on bread with my little brother in the kitchen and it brings back fond memories.
2- I am taking voice lessons! I have quite a bit of experience with singing, including voice lessons in college, but there are some technique issues that have always haunted me and I knew once all my kids were in school that I wanted to work on my voice again. Mostly I wanted to have a healthy voice that wouldn’t go hoarse after singing for 5 minutes (aka figure out how to do it right!). I’m really enjoying learning and am making a lot of progress!
3- I have recently shifted my focus from primarily song-writing to doing some orchestrating work. (That basically means writing for orchestra instruments – so several different instruments on a particular work rather than just piano or piano and voice.) I have enjoyed some sample lessons from Berklee Online and instructional podcasts and articles from artofcomposing.com which have been an essential part of teaching myself how to do these new skills! It’s been a fun adventure so far!
I have followed the work of Austin Kleon for the past few years. He has such a fresh way of looking at creativity. Here is a blurb about his book coming out next year and (my favorite) a presentation he gave that outlines what he talks about in the book.