The Creative Urge: Savior or Tormentor?

My work on the score for Marley’s Ghost: The Ambassadors of Steam is soon coming to an end. I have been working on this project since the end of February and have really enjoyed the experience. It has been frustratingly challenging, irritatingly annoying and completely amazing!!! I can honestly say that this film has pushed me to write some of the best music I’ve ever written. Is it any good? I have no idea. It works for the film and, in the end, that’s what really matters. I’ll leave the decision of its quality to someone else.

As it stands right now, I have approximately 5-7 more minutes of action music to write. Once that’s done, I’ll be reworking a few cues into cohesive ideas and doing a bit of remixing and mastering, with the end result being an original soundtrack album that I’ll submit for distribution. Again, will anyone want to buy it or listen to it? Don’t know, but I’m going to release it anyway.

Even though I have a few weeks of work left, I already feel a pull to my next project. It’s a weird sensation. I find myself being distracted from my current project by the possibility of a new one, when I should just buckle down, focus and get it done. It makes me wonder, where does that urge come from? Why do I feel the need to put myself through the agony of creation.

Scientificly, I suppose the answer lies in left-brain, right-brain dominance. Left-brain dominant people are more analytical and organized, where right-brainers (Hmm, I may have just made that word up) are more creative and intuitive. I guess I would fall well within the right-brain camp. I will never claim to understand why the synapses in the right side of my noodle fire faster than their counterparts across the divide, but apparently, that’s what happens. Ok, that explains what physically causes me to be creative, but does that explain the reason why? I’m not sure that it does.

Could the urge come from the metaphysical realm? A professor of mine at Ohio Northern University, Rosie Williams, had a theory about the nature of creation. Rosie was an extremely gifted teacher, pianist and composer. I had the distinct privilege of editing and orchestrating several works for her, both during my time at ONU and after.

I was extremely irritated in the direction a piece I was working on was heading and expressed my frustration to Rosie during one of our piano lessons. I was not, as some would have you believe, attempting to distract her from the fact that I was obviously unprepared for my lesson. I was fully prepared to take my well-deserved lumps for slacking off on practicing. Anyway, I told Rosie what I was up against. She sat quietly and listened to me vent for several minutes. When I was done, she calmly stood up, walked over to her bookshelf, took out a book and handed it to me. “Here, read this, it’ll help.”

I took the book and flipped through it while she continued. “Have you ever wondered where an idea comes from? I have. I have a theory about it, in fact. Imagine that you are standing in the middle of a room and above you are all these abstract ideas and fragments of all the things that we have thought of since the beginning of time. As you stand there, your mind reaches out and grabs a fragment, then another and another. Soon, the fragments themselves are latching onto other fragments. They begin to connect in unique ways, taking form. Suddenly, you have an original idea. Now, it is entirely possible that someone else in the same room picked up on the same base fragment and built their original thought off of it. That explains how two people in completely different parts of the world can have almost the exact same idea at the exact same time. I suggest you stop forcing the tune to come. Just let it grow however it wants to.”

My hour was up, so I stood up, gathered my stuff and the book Rosie gave me and started to head out the door. Just as it was about to shut, Rosie stuck her head out and said “Oh, and next time, practice before coming to your lesson!”

The book she gave me was called The Artist Way, by Julia Cameron. I’m not going to go into detail here, but that book changed the way I write. Basically, it’s a handbook on how to channel your creative spark and use your limitations to your advantage. It’s an interesting way to think about creative thoughts and how they form, but it doesn’t really explain where the urge to create comes from.

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter and I’ll probably never have an answer that I’m completely satisfied with. All I know is that I feel the urge and need to create constantly. I hear music 24 hours a day. Often, it gets so loud inside my head that I have to turn on the radio to drown out the sound. Sometimes, that’s the only way I can concentrate. It drives me slightly crazy, but it’s a burden I happily bare because it is also a treasure trove of ideas I can dip into when I’m writing. I don’t know where the urge comes from, but I have plenty of projects coming up that will satisfy it. ┬áThat’s good enough for me!

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