One thing that has always intrigued me is how different artists get their respective projects started, from the point of inception. I’ll be focussing mainly on music for the next few videos, but a lot of this particular concept applies to any creative endeavour.
I feel like the majority of music is inspired by something in the epic expanse of concept that is human emotion, like _love_ for instance. Religion (or lack thereof), historically speaking, also has inspired many a tune. Some people get their ideas from nature – Olivier Messiaen for example was a modern composer who literally notated bird songs and built variations off of them. It can be more abstract of course… I mean, I can’t even imagine how many songs that were written about a beautiful sunset or a forest.
Personally, I feel like my inspiration can’t be pegged down to one specific source. My daughter and husband have inspired songs, my extremely opinionated politics have inspired songs, my favourite artists, actors, songs have inspired songs, past relationships (good and bad), and yeah a lot of nature has too! One thing is for certain though, and that is that you can not _force_ inspiration.
However, that’s not to say that you can’t schedule some time and dedicate some mental work towards it. For example, I find that I get my best melodies when I’m on a long brisk walk, without headphones in. There’s something about the combo of the natural (and unnatural) sounds in the world around me and all of its chaos mixing with my blood pumping that gets my creative gears turning. And hey, I can get my creative development time AND my exercise time in! Bonus!
But, when that amazing piece of inspiration finally hits, what do you do about it? A lot people will say, “oh I’ll write it down later” but will then get wrapped up in something else and lose it. _It_ being the melody, lyric, logline, colour, character… whatever it is that the artist actually needed to remember to actually execute the piece in the first place, is gone forever.
This is where technology is really your best friend, I think. Whip out that phone voice memo app or ancient cheapo tape recorder that you found on CraigsList- whatever you can afford- and get it down. If it’s a visual, take a photo or video. It doesn’t have to be beautiful quality, you’re just trying to get that idea down while it’s at its freshest. Later when you have some time to flesh it out, you’ve got that raw idea and the original feeling handy.
If I get lucky and I get a good melody or lyric early in my walk, then I’ll take advantage of that momentum in the moment and continue to develop it on the rest of my walk. Here’s an example of one song that came to me that I liked as I was on an epic 6 mile walk in Atlanta, initially inspired by the picturesque clouds. Here’s my first recording, in all of it’s glorious crappy roughness:
I kept walking and went over the melody again and again until something made more sense, then I recorded it again:
I did that about 5 times for this song, and actually ended up writing in piecemeal about a solid quarter of a song that I was actually happy with by the time my walk ended. I’ve since started working on this song in the studio to take it to the next steps.
I have a running folder full of voice memo snippets which I’ll sift through when I’m doing my music production time and need a fresh idea. Sometimes they’re good and sometimes they’re not, and it’s unlikely I’ll end up actually using them all, but _my_ reality is that I’m a very slow writer, and having this “pot of inspiration” at my disposal available to me whenever I have my music time has been integral to my ability to get songs out in the little time that I have to do it.
On that note (pun intended), over the next few posts I’m going to walk you through more of my personal songwriting process, and maybe some part of it will resonate with you in your own creative endeavours. Or not. But either way you will have one extra idea in your pocket to try if you find you get stuck. You never know!