Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Keep yourself open for business

The composer Bright Sheng uses the analogy of being an antique shop owner to describe the process of composition and becoming inspired:

"I often think writing music is like having, for example, an antique shop. You have to keep the shop open every day. Some days nobody comes, but you still have to be there. Once in a while somebody comes in and purchases a precious object for a large amount of money. If you are not there that day, you will not make the sale. It's very important to be mentally ready to receive when the inspiration comes."

Bright Sheng is emphasising the importance of developing regular habits that will help you keep your mind open to the possibility of inspiration. 

Doing one or two of the following things each day can help you achieve this:

  • Make it attractive and easy for others to approach you with their ideas and opinions. (For example, make it clear when and where you are 'open for ideas' and what the benefits of sharing them will be. Be willing to give people credit for their ideas.)  
  • Actively welcome the perspectives of others into your thinking; be open to the possibility of doing things differently. (Once you have attracted people's ideas you need to show that you truly value them. You do this by not only welcoming ideas but also showing you are responding to and acting upon them.)  
  • Build-up and create an inventory of stock, in the form of a wide range of interesting and intriguing ideas, that can be transformed into inspirational profit as and when an opportunity appears. (For example, a surprise problem may appear for which an idea from your store can provide an innovative and timely solution.)     
  • Brush the dust of time away from old items of stock (interesting and intriguing ideas you collected a while ago) to remind yourself of them and reassess their value. (Ask yourself if a change in the situation or context has made an idea more relevant and potentially useful.)
  • Be patient and remain open for 'the business of inspiration'. Give your intuition the time it needs to 'window-shop' through your mind and eventually settle upon a specific problem or topic. (Apparently irrelevant ideas can sometimes stick in the mind for no apparent reason. Rather than immediately dismissing them, allow them some time and space to develop, roam and perhaps connect with the issues and problems you need to solve.)

The above quotation is from "The Muse that Sings: Composers Speak about the Creative Process" by Ann McCutchan.

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