Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Inspiration Archive

Writing in a journal reminds you of your goals and of your learning in life.  It offers a place where you can hold a deliberate, thoughtful conversation with yourself.  - Robin S. Sharma

While unpacking the boxes upon boxes upon boxes upon boxes of belongings from our recent move, I stumbled (literally, there's a bruise...) upon a stack of a few of my old journals.  I've kept a journal since early high school, and they have served me well over the years, for all kinds of different reasons.  My selective sentimentality has forced me to take them with me wherever I go: from TN, to MA, to WV, to VA. 

They are full of reflections, wishes, ideas, and longings.  What struck me this particular time, reading through them, were the many creative ideas held within the pages of each one.  It was surprising, to see that my 20-year old self had the courage to write down an idea that my 28-year old self found to be laughable - until I realized that that might make it brilliant

Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets...

Under my photo on this blog I wrote that I couldn't decide whether I was a musician or aspiring author or even an aspiring designer.  I still don't know.  What's interesting, though, is the plethora of musical and creative writing ideas I have found in journals that are 5+ years old, and have long been out of use.  Reading through older journals I found ideas for plays, for collaborations, for scenes, for sewing projects, even - dare I say - compositions.  I found beginning sketches of a mallet bag that I've been designing for about 4 years now...

As students we are encouraged to focus, to not waste our energy or time with other activities or interests.  And even if we aren't explicitly told to do so, whether by parents, mentors, or teachers, we are aware of our own desire for success and to be heard as musicians, which we can interpret as a need to block out other creative outlets, at least for a time.  There's often a mention of the sacrifice one makes to be a successful musician - devoting hours and hours to practice over just about everything else, and This is Necessary.  No great players in our field became great players by watching hundreds of hours of cat videos. But let's be honest...everybody needs a cat video now and then.  

But what do you do when you're in the middle of a 4-hour practice session and you're struck with a new idea for a composition? Or a play? Or a story, an essay?  
You've got an idea for a piece? Sorry, right now you are learning an entire recital of other music.  You've got another idea for a story? Sorry, right now you're paying a lot of money for a Masters degree.  An idea for a song? Are you kidding?...You need to get back to adapting Bach because that's what you're supposed to be doing right now.
Ignoring these little inspirations may provide a moment of pride for our diligent focus, but we can't just throw them away, as who knows if that is the idea we've been waiting for but just don't know it yet?  Here's where we need to keep an inspiration archive.  Maybe just writing that idea down, no matter how irrelevant it is to the activity at hand, could preserve it for the day we need it, no matter how many years down the road.  

Without inspiration the best powers of the mind remain dormant.  There is a fuel in us which needs to be ignited with sparks.  - Johann Gottfried von Herder 

What are the odds inspiration will strike the second we need it?  We all get lucky from time to time, but none of us are so lucky that we are struck by the arrow the moment we step up to the keyboard (regardless of which kind).  The spark's inconvenient arrival is inevitable, but if we are prepared for it, no idea will ever be lost.  The inclusion of a small notebook into a stick bag, or a laptop case, could mean that our brilliant-upon-brilliant ideas are preserved. 

The Joy of Rediscovery

Here's a "hypothetical" situation: you move to a new city.  With no immediate full-time job in view you decide to embrace one year as a time to focus on your own creative projects, and have the support system to do so.  You've spent weeks cataloging every idea you have, prioritizing them, creating them for the sake of creating them.  You try to write down the character sketches and the tone row patterns.  Some are great, some are garbage, c'est la vie.  Then, while unpacking, you find worn little books that contain almost nothing but ideas upon ideas upon ideas, just the kind you're looking for.  The anxiety about a year of creative focus starts to wane as you remember that you have years and years of ideas written down, and all you have to do is choose the best ones.  

Before the move I tried so hard to create an idea but wound up editing it into oblivion, time after time.  

I needed a spark, and it arrived in the form of my journals, my own sort of inspiration archive.  Reading through them I'm met with certain confirmations: that my experience with Alexander Technique has changed my life, (and I can't wait to shout it from the mountaintops at PASIC) that my ideas for compositions are worth pursuing, and perhaps most of all, that my writing ideas are well - right.  They say you're supposed to write what you know.  Nearly a decade of separation of two different plots on the same theme is enough confirmation for me. I have no doubt as to what I know.  

Special music teachers have encouraged my creative writing, and now I have no doubt what I'm supposed to write about. It feels good.  My experience in finding those journals was so profound that I wanted to share it here. Perhaps someone reading has had a similar experience? Or perhaps you will start your own inspiration archive and experience the joy of finding it just when you need it. :)

Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine.  - Ludwig van Beethoven