Thursday, 23 October 2014

Travel back to the 'Going Wrong Point'.

'...the point at which things go wrong may be a new area of exploration that you didn't see initially. You have to keep going back to that point, trying to figure out what to do. Often the problem is that you've just refused to bend the right way.'

Shulamet Ran from The Muse That Sings: Composers Speak about the Creative Process by Ann McCutchan

We do not like making mistakes, causing accidents, getting things wrong. We prefer to distance ourselves from our errors as quickly as possible: get back on track; regain momentum; regain direction. Some of us dislike mistakes so much that we exhort ourselves to do the impossible: 'right first time' after time after time.  

Some of us realise that perfection is impossible, so we commit to learning from our mistakes and moving forward; the two actions merge in our minds: learn move forward.

But what about learning and pausing, learning and changing, learning and going sideways, learning and travelling a less obvious path -- a path perhaps parallel or even opposite to our original intent?

Every going wrong point along our journey towards getting something right is an opportunity to get something right in new, innovative and better ways.

Wilson Greatbatch installed a wrong part into a heart monitoring device. He realised his mistake, but rather than immediately correcting it he was keen to find out how it would affect the device. When he switched the monitor on he heard a regular, heartbeat-like pulse. Intrigued by this effect, Greatbatch altered the direction of his research and became the inventor of the pacemaker.      

Édouard Bénédictus accidently knocked a glass flask off a shelf. Rather than immediately clearing up the mess and continuing his work, he stopped to examine the broken flask. It had not shattered into sharp splinters but had more or less kept its overall shape. Curious, Bénédictus changed the focus of his thinking for a while; he concentrated upon the remains of his accident. He found that the flask had contained a substance which had dried, creating an adhesive layer that stopped the glass shattering. He went on to invent laminated safety glass.    

So, when you realise you've made a mistake (or caused an accident or taken a wrong turn), travel back to your going wrong point. Park yourself there and search for signs and paths you may have missed first time round as you rushed on by.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Cue success!

'I want my things around me (posters from world premieres, published scores, etc.) I like to look at my things and say to myself, "You did this in the past, so maybe you can do what you're about to do now".'

John Corigliano from The Muse That Sings: Composers Speak about the Creative Process by Ann McCutchan

Many of us are forced to live in the moment forward.

New pressures, new obstacles, new challenges and opportunities demand that we clear our minds; they demand our undivided attention.

This is only natural, sensible even, but it can also increase our difficulties. Forgotten memories of past success can no longer cradle our confidence and offer us calming reassurances that we had and very likely still have what it takes to get things done: to achieve what we need to achieve.

To help ourselves meet new challenges we need to regain our memories and re-experience our feelings of past success. We need to cue them up around us in object form: letters and notes of thanks; letters of praise; letters of achievement; awards and rewards; and small personal reminders of fond feelings of achievement (that book you wrote; that report; that photo taken at a conference; that name badge; that pen you used to sign the deal; that first invoice).

No object is too small to cue strong feelings of enjoyed success. Place them around you and access their cued up, ready to go memories as and when you need to feel their warm and reassuring glow.

Then face forward and achieve, buoyed by the gift of confidence you have given yourself.