What’s your process?

I’ve abandoned listing these as days.

My process is mainly movement and memory. Or to put it another way, I don’t really have one.

Usually I try to build what I can, struggle, equivocate, go for walks, try to think and think and practice. Sometimes I’m just sitting at a keyboard coming up with the same variations on a theme that don’t quite work.

The issue, partly, is because I am trying to do everything at once. Lyrics, melody, arrangement. Ideas are emergent. Words aren’t so hard for me, but they also aren’t something I can control. They manifest, usually like a wave breaking, and usually they’re made up of a peak of many moments or ideas or things I’ve read. With some elements I need to  be more formulaic. Writing chords helps me but I forget to modulate and I find it hard to wrap my head around traditional songwriting. I should adhere to it more often but a lot of the time I find my words don’t fit. The thing is to me that my words take precedence so I find a form to fit them where I can.

When I don’t have any ideas, or feel I don’t, I remember Henry Miller’s line, when you cannot write, you can work. So I do. Scales, etudes, drills, ups downs until my brain goes I’M SO BORED I WANT TO DO SOMETHING COOL and then it makes a different effort. Bach doodled up and down scales over and over again, week by week, and had an entire cottage industry of Bachs to write it down. I’m splitting the difference between Johann Christian and Johann Sebastian here.

Every time I write something I don’t fully grasp what it is I’m doing, but it is more a signpost on something I need to develop. I only realise it fully when it is finished. Summon was about summoning courage that I didn’t have, in a way I had never tried to, up until that point.  I could see the outlines of the idea, but not grasp it utterly. Valentine was about trying to remember what I loved about connecting to a person, mentally, physically, because I do not feel very much romantically anymore. It feels comfortably numb. I somewhat prefer it because it is less distraction, but I wonder how much I need to worry, whether it is permanent or transitory as a state, and how that will affect the rest of my life.

This is one reason why I need to be extremely physically active. My thoughts move as I do and they only reach a conclusion or reference point as I bring them to that. Most of the time it takes frustratingly long and my output level bothers me intensely. But I also know that while I am trying to balance as much as I can, there will be trade-offs.

This is why I am constantly on the move, and constantly trying to cram in as much information into my head as I possibly can. I see creating work as more of a distillation process, where a lot of ideas and experience gets burned away to create something more potent.

I say words happen first but that isn’t even a constant. I am not formally trained with chord instruments, which means that a lot of this is challenging to me. When you are used to learning a solo/rhythm instrument (violin/vocals) it is not always easy to recalibrate.

Yes, whine. BUT I am trying to learn as much as I can,  while trying to do as much as I can. I need to fail, but also insure myself so that a fall isn’t a bad break. There’s the balance.

That said, you only need to get up one more time than you fall to count it a success.


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