Monday, September 7, 2009

How to create something unexpected

A few weeks ago, I issued a bold call for you to Create Something Unexpected. Since I posted that piece, I gradually realized that I might have left some of you scratching your heads, saying "That sounds good! I want to do that -- but how? Where do you find this kind of profound inspiration? Is this one of those mysteries that every artist must find on their own? Or is there a method to it?"

The answer is yes. You have to find this on your own. And yes, there is a method, a map to the terrain. It's the kind of thing, where, as your native guide, I eventually have to say, "I can take you this far, but no farther." But even then, you'll be guided by these seven landmarks:
  1. Develop your personal clarity. Very briefly, this means when something happens, you see what happens instead of seeing what you always see.
  2. Develop your personal discipline. Discipline means you can follow through with an action despite momentary distractions.
  3. Build a relationship with your muse. In other words, when inspiration calls, you better have your phone turned on.
  4. Create some room in your life. If your schedule is perpetually full, opportunity will pass right by you and knock on the next door instead.
  5. Learn a body of creative techniques and skills. For example, learn rock songwriting on this blog.
  6. Apprentice yourself to a particular style. For example, practice writing songs in your own personal style until you can do it comfortably and consistently.
  7. Take the call. After all that preparation, you still have to hear the inspiration, do the work, and create something specific and tangible.
Each of these points deserves a much fuller explanation. I could write a whole book, and there would still be more to say!

I want to make sure you notice that only steps 5 and 6 say anything about rock songwriting. The rest of the steps are the same no matter what art form or creative endeavor you undertake. This means that being a songwriter is surprisingly like being a novelist, a sculptor, or a dancer. You face most of the same challenges as a cartoonist, a filmmaker, or an inventor. Any artist is your kindred spirit, and you can learn valuable and relevant lessons from any creative field.

I'll soon have more to say about this roadmap. But I also need to cover chords, melodies, scales, phrases, rhythms, rhymes, hooks, mood, metaphor, voice, and narrative. All in good time.

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