Waiting for Inspiration

You need patience, and the confidence to know that eventually the really good idea will come


Have just completed one track, and now working to come up with ideas for the next one, I’ve shifted from the more methodical, detailed, and predictable discipline of mixing, to the far more creative and abstract process of writing.  Having discipline and persistence with the writing part (especially when it feels like no ideas are coming) has been one of the more difficult aspects of music production I’ve had to adjust to during this year.  I think a big reason for this is that it’s quite far removed from my usual work as a software engineer.  With software engineering generally speaking, getting results is simply a product of time… unless you’re working in really cutting edge technologies or research, if you put in a full day’s work you can expect to get a proportionate amount achieved (and potentially the general feeling of satisfaction stemming from that).  Hence it was a very different experience for me back in the early months of this year, the first time I committed to a whole day of writing and came out with absolutely nothing at the end!  Then, moreso when I spent the good part of a week going a fair way down the road of putting together a track, only to end up deciding it wasn’t going anywhere, and shelving it.  This necessitated a big adjustment to the approach to, and expectations of work, and for me was one of the toughest parts of starting to write music full time… it required a lot of persistence to overcome the disappointment of spending time on something, and feeling like I wasn’t achieving.

One thing that helped was being reminded that this is a natural part of the creative process, and pretty much everyone involved in artistic pursuits experiences it from time to time.  I was told about a quote from film director David Lynch, where he likened getting inspiration for films to ice fishing.  Something along the lines of… much like ice fishing where you have to wait by a hole in the ice, sometimes for a long time, for a fish to come along, inspiration for a really good idea can’t be rushed.  You need patience, and the confidence to know that eventually the really good idea will come.  Similarly with music, you might have to sit there for a day (or two, or a week) auditioning combinations of sounds before a good idea comes along which you can turn into a track.   The important thing is to have patience and persistence, and accept that you’ll probably come up with 10 average ideas before a really good one.

Another reassuring thing is that you never know when shelved or seemingly average ideas might be able to be resurrected in the future.  In my case, the aforementioned idea I shelved after a full week of work, when combined with a different bass line a couple of months later, was transformed, and went on to become the basis for a track I was quite happy with.

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