Saturday, 9 February 2019

Clear the decks!

My composition teacher took one look at my scribbled, untidy, almost unintelligible manuscripts and said, "You need to create a clean copy of where you are at! If you don’t, you will get confused and find it almost impossible to progress."
He was right: I had got confused!
I was not having trouble coming up with ideas for my compositions; my problem was gaining a clear picture of exactly what I had created so far and where it needed to go next. I was haphazardly piling idea upon idea upon my manuscript: like an unskilled painter in oils who, rather than creating a coherent and pleasing picture, slaps on more and more sticky colours to crate nothing more than mess!
I took my teacher’s advice.
I took stock of what I had produced so far -- and cleared the decks. I created a clean copy of the piece of music upon which I was working. I did not discard any of my ideas, because what does not work within one piece may well work within another, but my new copy included only those ideas I felt would work within the context of the piece I was currently writing.
As I continued to work on my piece, creating clean copies at regular intervals, I found myself looking back over my old workings and reconsidering some of the ideas recorded there. As I now had a clear view of the overall direction in which I wanted my composition to develop, I was able to reassess these ideas and adapt some of them to my current thinking and needs.
Regularly "clearing the decks" of my past piled-up thinking (not deleting but putting out of sight for a while) provided a space within which my creativity could progress unencumbered.
If you are struggling with a problem, try "clearing the decks".
Put your past workings to one side for a while: turn the page; start a new flip chart; copy your working from a whiteboard; rub the board clean, and then write up where your thinking has taken you so far.
Also, ask yourself the following questions:
  • How has my thinking changed as I have worked?
  • Are my initial goals and assumptions still relevant and correct?
  • What new things have emerged as I have worked? 
  • What new insights have I gained as I have worked?
  • What have I learnt from the way others have reacted to my work?

By knowing where you are, you will be able to work towards where you need to go next (and you will begin to see the ideas and approaches that will get you there).

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