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Creativity is a Sometimes Thing

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CreativityYou can’t force it. If you force it you get mediocrity at best. Much more likely is that you get real garbage. You can’t follow the rules. Yes music has rules, more like guidelines. But if you follow them, again you get mediocrity or garbage. You never get something worthwhile.

Okay, so how do you find creativity? What is it? And how do you channel it? And the answer is….. I don’t know. Well that’s kind of sucky! What I do know is that it’s evasive, slippery, and demanding. I do know how creativity finds me.

For me creativity is living in the rules, the boundaries, but then stepping outside of them in ways that are unexpected. Go listen to Chopin’s Nocturnes. Each is a gem. They constantly push the rules and boundaries in unexpected ways, creating melodies that pull you uncontrollably. And yet they would not be anywhere as good if, if, if, if they didn’t have endings that push the boundaries even further. They make each unforgettable.

I find creativity when I look at those things that catch my interest. For me, the unexpected is found in a guitar riff or a few chords. I play with them, push the melody in an unexpected way. Or push the chords in an unexpected way. Or better yet, do them both at the same time.  Please, don’t think that just by doing the unexpected you are being creativity. That doesn’t work for me either. Same results; mediocrity and garbage, though more of the latter.

How do I channel creativity? I can’t actively pursue it. No. Look, I practice guitar every morning. Right now I’m working on the mundane of playing the F scale up the neck of the guitar as I try to better master the notes on the fingerboard. And after that I go to work on some of the songs that I’ve already started, playing them over and over, trying modifications of the melody. It is a time when I am still sleepy, more open to whatever, less cerebral. Just the act of playing them, honestly listening to my ear fosters the creativity. You have to take the risk of being honest and revealing yourself. Usually when I’m done, I’ll let my fingers stray to some new chords, often in a different key. Or maybe they will play a new riff. It is in THOSE moments that the seed of creativity is found. From there a whole song may develop.

Now there is one other type of creativity that sometimes happens with me. I wake up with a song in my head. I didn’t do anything to get it that I’m aware of. I have two or three songs that came to me this way. It’s rare. And this morning I woke up with the right words for a song that I’m working on in my head. What a gift to receive.

Playing with sound, creating a new song is demanding and obsessive. It is one of the most exciting things that you can do, even though you can’t force it. So if you are in the creativity business, you’re kind of screwed, as you can’t force it. Also if you are in the creativity business you have the best job in the world.  You know that no computer can replace what you do. Only you can be creativity and only if you choose to be open to it.

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