Composition Post #2: Respecting the 4 phases of your work

There are different phases in the creative process, and each of them must be respected for their unique qualities; the generative phase, the assembly phase, development, and the editing phase.

1. When you are generating ideas for a piece, NOTHING should come in the way. All ideas are welcome, and critical faculties should be turned on very low, if at all. This is a time of flow, excitement, emotion, the time where if you’re lucky, you ‘re in touch with the deepest parts of yourself. You could label this phase “inspiration”, but to me that word lacks the gravitas and subtlety of these precious moments, where you are knocking about the recesses of your being, opening an attic door, pulling away the cobwebs to see what’s there.

2. Once you have pages of ideas, the piece is a jigsaw puzzle. Maybe the idea that seemed so perfect as a beginning is actually part of a 2nd section, or maybe the solo section that seemed right for about 3 minutes in should begin the piece. I find it’s important not to lock into premature ideas of linearity.  Composer beware- a lot of times an idea may spring forth that belongs in another piece. Boy, is it important to figure that out sooner rather than later. Otherwise you fall into that ever-so-common trap of jumping around too much, losing focus. You might quickly find, also, that what seemed a precious idea is actually mundane.

3. Development- this is what separates the novices from the masters. How LITTLE can you use, and how MUCH can you make of it. Almost all drama and form succeeds or fails at this stage.

4. That lovely, if painful, time, when all ideas become suspect. The trash can should be close by, the delete button saying “Me, Me”, the eraser as jumpy and excited as a thoroughbred at the starting line. Rejoice in your bad ideas as you toss them over your shoulder. They are beloved teachers.

Question: where do YOU get trapped in the 4 phases? What are your skills in extricating yourself?

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