The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #7359   Message #45657
Posted By: The Shambles
16-Nov-98 - 03:57 PM
Thread Name: Songwriter's Forum
Subject: RE: Songwriter's Forum
The following was written to The Show Of Hands fans net, by Steve Fairchild and he has kindly agreed to let me reproduce it here.

We've talked about this before privately; I'm going public on the basis that this might be relevant or of interest to others.

Stuart, your "problem" is terribly common with adults. Most musicians I know, including professional musicians, have these same feelings most, if not all, of the time. Me too.

I could point you at any amount of literature to do with enhancing/unleashing creativity, but the bottom line is simple: you're an individual, you're not "mimicking" being an individual. You have your own take on life, your own sense of aesthetics: don't be afraid to use them. The main creativity-killer is a fear of what others will think of our feeble efforts, a fear of failure. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I occasionally give guitar lessons; many players wants to sound like Jimi or Stevie or Eric or [insert fave guitar hero]. It's great to have heroes to emulate, of course, it's the first part of the road; but I like to point out eventually that nobody makes their mark copying someone else. All my musical/artistic heroes tend to be individuals who have found their own voices; the more individual the better. It's the character that comes across, and only secondarily exactly how it's put across.

Similarly I've found a tendency to procrastinate: "I'll be more creative when I play better / when I buy that next indispensable piece of gear / a better guitar / when I've finished this rush job". Gollocks. Using one's imagination takes practice; start now even if you can't sing or play or paint or write at all.

One piece of literature I like to quote is a thesis by a friend of mine entitled "The Critic and the Creator". She points out that young children are primarily creative and non-critical, happy to splash paint over paper, the walls, the TV and the cat. Adults OTOH have necessarily become conditioned to be critical, to not make a mess, not to try things they don't know how to do - and have to re-learn how to "make things up".

Just before I shut up, some practical tips: - My own favourite trick is to fool myself into suspending all criticism until a later date. I like working under pressure; no time to get cerebral, just bang it out and see what sticks. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. It has at least served to demonstrate to me that I _can_ be creative, despite my expectations of failure. - Don't judge yourself; you're your own worst critic. Don't worry about criticism generally; I've said this before. Anybody can criticise. Only rarely is there anything to be learnt from the critics, no matter how well-qualified they are. Far better to create and tolerate the critics than not to create. In the extreme, far better to create garbage than not to create. - Carry a notebook and a pen (or a dictaphone) at all times. If you get a snippet of an idea, even just two words or a 3-note melody, write it down. Wherever you are, whatever you're doing. Do this again and again. After a couple of years you'll be surprised how creative you've been! Equally importantly, you'll see evidence that you can express your character. - Many songwriters (esp. Neil Finn) say that the best time to get ideas is just as you're falling asleep, or daydreaming. Keep that notebook by the bed (Neil gets up and grabs the guitar and manages not to lose the mood in the process - a neat trick in itself). - Some artists use spliff or alcohol to "get loose". I personally wouldn't condone a primarily pharmaceutical approach to anything, even creativity. But the point is that being creative _does_ require a different headstate, one which can sometimes be uncomfortable yet still useful (in my experience). Indeed there is compelling evidence that trauma and psychosis can help creativity enormously! (Again not recommended.) Do allow yourself the headspace to get emotionally involved, moved even, perhaps even driven - express yourself, get it off your chest, make a statement, weave a scene. If you feel passion, pleasure or pain, use it. - If you're stuck for a starting point, find one - read the papers, look out the window, go for a walk. Walking is good for songwriting - the walking pace provides a rhythm to start with. Try varying the pace. - If you're looking for a melody, stop listening to music. You might find after a while that the tunes in your head didn't come from the radio. - Remember: your main competitive edge as an artist is that there is only one you. - As an artist, you're one half of a relationship; the other half is the artee (the audience). You have control over the first, and none over the second. Don't try to control it - I firmly believe that any audience can smell the difference between a contrivance and an honest statement at 100 yards. Don't even try to analyse it; sometimes the audience seem to contribute more than the artist, they see things in there that the artist just threw in unconsciously and react to those. (Sometimes to a scary degree.) Just do what you do and see if anyone relates; I bet they do.

Anyway, enough verbiage. I hope some of this helps. We are all far more creative than we tend to get the chance to demonstrate to ourselves in the course of the daily "struggle for the legal tender".