Wednesday, January 2, 2008

You're Doing It Wrong...

I am something of a process nut.

I love reading about process, talking about process, hearing about process and applying processes to problems.  So much, that I think it may be a problem sometimes.  I was reading the first couple of chapters of Twyla Tharp's book "The Creative Habit" (I just started, I'll report more as I finish...) and she writes about some of the fears that can potentially shut down the creative act before it begins.  I began thinking, a big one for me is "I may not do it right".  This is subtly different than "I don't know how to do it".  "Do it" implies ignorance while "do it right" implies fear.  

I can take the idea of "doing it right" to the nth degree sometimes.  There was a time when I would spend hours trying to design a practice routine and never practice because I was concerned that my routine was not "right".  I am happy to say that I have gotten past a lot of this (knock Mac...) with regards to practicing and playing the saxophone, but I still run up against it in composing.  When I start a new piece (or tune) my mind will always begin putting up parameters:  Modal thing, Rhythm Changes thing, ECM thing, Tune on a standard's changes etc.  Now, very often this is a wonderful tool and I get good results from using it but what I dislike about it is that it puts my mind into a judgmental place:  "that line doesn't fit", "it's not hip enough".  Very often, it doesn't and it's not but a teacher of mine told me that we should write the music that catches our interest (or words to that effect).  The short of it is I let myself get caught up in the world of "should" instead of the world of what is.  If I hear and like something that is of a major tonality - I should write a major tonality, not try to force the idea into a preconceived idea of what the tune "should" be.   

I will always use processes and rituals (more on that later) but I have to be careful not to force or bully the music in the guise of "following the process".


D0nnaTr0y said...

I LOVE Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit!!!

I found it extremely inspiring and too true to the creative process, be it modern dance or musical composition.

Gregory Dudzienski said...

So far, I love it also. I am only a couple of chapters into it but it already has given me some cool ideas ideas...I like the idea of "always have your pencil"

Kathe said...

Greg- What you are saying applies to writing as well- I have some of those same issues.

Gregory Dudzienski said...

Thanks for stopping by. How have you worked through this stuff in your writing?

Kathe said...

Greg- (Great blog, by the way) Well I think getting to the point where I can say it is okay to be 'good enough'- putting that 'enough' on the end really helps. But I think what help me to get to that 'good enough' point are two things- reading about other writers and how they write- learning that there is no 'right' way to do it- and reading many, many books and being able to see that I write as well as or better than a lot of authors who have already been published. Although being able to see that means ignoring the emotional part of me that says how - horrible, stupid, idiotic, etc...- my writing is and getting to the more objective part that can assess those kinds of things.
Also there are a couple parts to writing- I don't know what the proper names are but I think of them as the editor and the writer- the editor does all the parameters- wrong word-right word, bad grammar- good grammar, wrong spelling- right spelling, badly done- well done and the writer breathes life into the work. So sometimes it is appropriate for the editor to write and sometimes it is appropriate for the writer to work- and sometimes they get in each other's way. But it is important to know that both of those parts are needed to successfully create something.
Okay this comment is probably a long enough,

Gregory Dudzienski said...

For a long time I was afraid of the idea of "good enough", as it always resonated in my head as abandoning what ever I was working on. In doing that I think I developed a "not good enough" complex which kept my work from ever moving on. You're right, objectivity is the key...whatever our discipline, we know when something is "good enough". and in some ways does it matter if it's good enough or not? Is the documentation of where the work (and by extension the artist) is at that moment the most important? I tell my beginning students - "if everyone waited until they could play/write to do so, no one would EVER play/write!" I like to remind myself that there is no "finish line" in a creative and artistic life. To paraphrase a teacher of mine, "A piece/book/record/solo is only a glimpse of the artist. The work over time is what determines his or her success"