Have you ever tried going back to the gym or playing a sport after a long break and felt a real sense of pain later, or the day afterwards. I’ve certainly had that experience, being sore in muscles I’d forgot I had. In the worst cases, the soreness can last for days and days making us question our will to exercise.
I’ve felt something like that lately, but it doesn’t have to do with sport. I’ve felt sore in my creative muscles.
No Studio Pain No Studio Gain
It’s been a stop-start year for me. Some really fertile and productive weeks have been offset by weeks of illness and interruption. But, I recently got back into the studio to work full-time on the next phase of my upcoming album.
What I noticed, making music in longer uninterrupted sessions, was the small mistakes and inefficiencies in my work. I was making dumb moves (like patching stereo connections the wrong way around), struggling to remember computer keyboard shortcuts and generally taking a lot longer than I should over each task.
Then, by the end of day I felt far more tired and drained than I really should, given the work itself, playing and recording my own original compositions, was so much fun.
Brains And Toil
Our brains will change, adapt and grow in different ways depending on the work we do. Scientists can predict which instrument a professional musician plays based on the results of a brain scan. A trumpeter’s brain looks different to that of a pianist. And, the fine structure of your brain will be different if you spend your day practising scales or surfing the net.
Mastery of any creative task can be described by the idea of flow, the sense of easy connection between the ideas in our heads and the execution of those ideas in the real world. In those moments the technology recedes into the background and we feel an effortless control of the mental processes and physical moves involved in creation.
There’s lots of romantic notions out there about creativity, but the simple unavoidable fact is, the less we practice our craft, the less developed the connections in our brain will be. We will always lag behind our potential.
All Talent Is Forged
Natural talent is one of the most unhelpful ideas out there. Sure, it looks like creativity comes easily to some people, but looks can be deceiving. Get behind the scenes with anyone who is perceived to have real talent, sustained, world-class talent and you’ll find a tremendous amount of hard work, the kind of turn up regardless of how you feel about it hard work that shatters any romantic notions of the artistic lifestyle.
Forging is a violent process. Extreme heat and pressure are applied to metal to shape it. It’s a radical process of transformation. To me the notion of talent is connected to this idea of transformation of forging. The talented individual is not just trading on a natural advantage, the idea of being born with talent, they are benefiting from the years of effort that have changed them, physically, mentally and emotionally.
Don’t Wait For Inspiration
I don’t believe in waiting for inspiration. In fact, I’ll go one step further, I don’t believe in people who believe in waiting for inspiration. That’s a fool’s errand.
It’s been an odd year here in Singapore. When I haven’t been down with a ear infection, facing an unexpected move to a new country, or struggling with construction noise, there’s been low flying jets preparing for national day celebrations and, of course now it’s the latest toxic haze drifting over the city. The interruptions have come thick and fast.
But, what I do, really, all I can do, is keep at it. It’s not optimal, but it is reality. I create what I can create and every act makes me more creative. Because, ultimately, creativity isn’t about some feeling, buzz, or artistic pose, it’s about making stuff, exercising the muscles and sinews of our soul until they no longer resist and push back against our will, but work and move with grace to help us make our world richer and more beautiful.