We are wrestling with several dynamic forces during our daily session of creative work. We are engaging physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual energies in new and frequently unpredictable ways. By definition, a creative process, a process designed to birth something new, must allow for and embrace the unpredictable result. And as we proceed in our session, we need an “out of body” capacity to monitor our emotional state and the impact our emotional state is having on the creative process.
Are we increasingly elated (onset of mania) because everything is working? Are we sinking into despair (depression) because unexpected roadblocks have emerged? Is elation blinding us to problems we need to face or lifting us on an unexpected and prolonged wave of productivity? Is despair, ironically, helping us to stay grounded and focused on each painful step, or is it tearing the project apart?
Over the past several weeks our Composer of Music for Art has been focused on the endgame – the experience of reaching a point of conclusion with a project. This morning was about adding a few new elements in the last seconds of her “Galactic” track. The thinking was to create a transition at the end of the track into a more active groove which would suggest, even as the groove fades to the end, that there is another sonic scene on the horizon.
Her focus was the drum part for this new groove. The drum element rhythmically anticipates a string orchestra element for the groove, which is mostly finished. To round out this new, driving groove, she has planned to layer a third new element, a new “space” sound effect, driving and rhythmic.
Said she. “this is getting to be quite a long ‘endgame’,” for she realized that each of these new elements would require a few sessions to refine, not to mention mixing in with existing tracks. But dive in she did.
Having composed the drumline, she proceeded to record, and faced a problem which has been slapping her around for some time, i.e., some maddening, periodic crackling in the headphones. She was ready to allow herself a few minutes away from the project to investigate the problem and to consult an online reference. She was reminded of a conclusion previously reached – that there are technical limitations to her current hardware configuration, mostly the ability of the computer’s CPU (central processing unit) to process everything cleanly. And as in previous occasions, almost as a reward from Heaven for having the patience to confront calmly the problem, the problem settled down and she ended up making a nice clean recording of the drum part.
Not only that, but the part really worked, really helped move the final bit of the composition in the right direction. It was going to be a good finish, and she would come back to this piece again to extend it further.
At this point she started mixing the drum track in with existing tracks. Predictably, there was some audio distortion, or “clipping” to contend with. Unpredictably, the clipping was not yielding easily. Further, previous decisions respecting balance between tracks did not seem to be working anymore. In her excitement, her elation about the effectiveness of the new drum bit, she began tweaking too many variables too much, and the mix was getting duller and duller. Elation was quickly giving way to frustration.
At this point our wise Lady called in her faithful Spaniel “muse”, known to those who know as “Deuce”. Deuce said, “Shut down the computer NOW!”
As you gain more experience with the flow of your creative session, your radar will beep more clearly at points in the process when you are elated or despairing. And you will have the discipline to ask – “should I prolong my session because I am riding a special wave of productivity” or “should I shut down early before I hurt my project, or myself, or my dog”?