Working in sonic arts has a particular advantage with respect to the creative process. There is an opportunity to record a version of a project in process and listen to that version a week later. How the work has progressed since then! Wow! Even though not finished, or nearly finished – how much sharper are the voices. The concept has crystallized. The work begins taking shape.
Creating the opportunity and taking the opportunity to identify and acknowledge the sometimes dramatic, sometimes subtle progress of a project (work in progress), can be very instructive and encouraging. Each creative hour is spent delving critically into the elements of our project, asking the tough questions, engaging in the requisite learning, sweating the tedium of moving concept to concrete, one stroke at a time. So properly engaged in this critical mindset, we can lose sight of what we have already achieved. By finding ways each day to review, to acknowledge where we have been versus where we are at, we tap into a great additional source of energy, of encouragement, of hope. We optimize our mental capacity to press on with our work.
This business of maintaining some tangible record of progress is perhaps more difficult to achieve in some art forms than others. How does the choreographer recognize, acknowledge progress? How does he remind himself of motions so raw just 6 days ago, compared to the fluid movements of this morning? How does the painter mark her projects movement forward. Perhaps with in-process photos?
For most of us, even for the electronic composer who has a relatively easy time documenting progress by recording in-process versions, the most important tool for all of us is memory – the mind’s eye, the mind’s ear. We can train our minds to review and remember more. Part of the day, maybe the beginning of the day – should be some acknowledgment of where we are at versus where we were. Before we dive in to that sometimes brutal process of critique, wrestling with technique, with technical setbacks, decisions about new learning needed, we should first encourage ourselves that our work today is in a generally better condition than it was last week – that there is hope and light at the end of the tunnel. And if the appraisal is less positive – that the project has taken a wrong turn – needs rethinking, or scrapping even – better to face it fresh in the morning when there is some energy to make the adjustment – to start again, get back on track.
In later stages of the project a different indicator of progress is available. It is momentum. If a piece is working – we find ourselves more and more eager to get back into it the next day – there is excitement and joy – anticipation of completion. For pieces that did not work out as well – there is at least some relief. we allowed the project to be. we yielded enough to bring a piece to fruition in some form unexpected or unhoped for. At this stage of the project, also, it is no less important to recognize and appreciate where we are with the work. This sense of joy and anticipation is a gift in the endgame – and usually the endgame does not last as long as the early struggles. Savor the endgame!
Mark progress daily. Keep your present struggle in perspective. Find ways to value and appreciate where you were, where you are , and where you are going.