Trusting the Process

The process by which an artist creates is always fascinating to me.  I devour interviews and “X-ARTIST on X-ARTIST” books as I love learning the thought process and methods that other creative types (whether visual artists, musicians, writers, or whatever) use to achieve their works.  Sometimes I don’t even like the artist but still love reading about how they make their shitty art, as the process is completely separate in some ways than the piece itself.

Personally, I just have a notebook that’s pretty much exclusively for dumb ideas.  I’m on my 4th or 5th one now, and usually go through one a CD.  I write and revise lyrics constantly in a sort of mental churning and regurgitation to come up with something better or iron out where they simply just don’t work and/or suck.  Sometimes I have a line or a chorus and just sit on that until inspiration hits and I spurt out the rest of the lyrics.  Booze Up and Riot was, if I recall, just a title (from Milk and Cheese, if you know the awesome Evan Dorkin comic book.  If not you should check it out) and I had the basic chorus, but it totally took form when I read an interview with Maynard from Tool somewhere where he said something along the lines of “You piss me off, we start a riot,” regarding a show where the promoters were being dicks.

Eureka.  The lyrics just poured out…well, mostly.  I had a point of reference and a basis to work everything else off of.  Luckily for the music I also had a bassline from a song I’d tried to work out a year earlier and even though the song itself failed the bassline was cool as hell, so it all came together due to not discarding ideas and just working through the process.

Similar situations happened with Pull the Pin and The Bible, The Bottle, The Bomb, the title on the latter from a piece by Black Flag artist Raymond Pettibon that I read about in a book somewhere and loved.

Point is, don’t keep your ears or eyes closed for inspiration.  If something hits you as a cool phrase or idea WRITE IT DOWN.  My notebooks are probably 75% shit– discarded ideas, doodles, and crappy drunken lyrics.

But still, even if it’s a stupid idea, WRITE IT DOWN.

Brainstorming is a massively gratifying way to mine your noggin.  There are no stupid ideas, as an idea you may never use may inspire another which could be brilliant or at least exactly what you’re looking for.

I came out of a decade of improvisational comedy and so trusting ideas, writing them down without judgment, and building on the good ones is a key part of the process.  Just get it out there.  It’s a draft.  It’s a purging.  It’s Ex Lax for the creative bowels.

Just get it out of you.

I still use lyrics and ideas I came up with YEARS ago.  Sometimes from over a DECADE.  Why?  It stuck with me.  And I WROTE IT DOWN.

I get frustrated that I can’t always come up with the music that suits the lyrics or the lyrics that suit the music, but having the confidence in your process and some major patience occasionally allows your brain the time to work through shit to the best results.  Redneck Pussyhouse took me FOREVER to write.  I had the idea “gabber with haikus” and the title, but I went through probably 10 different versions of that bitch before I hit paydirt.  I’m sure some people can just pump song after song out when they get their ideas, and by comparison to many I actually look like it’s what I do, but it’s a long process regardless of the outcome, and for me the process is entirely more gratifying and fun than the finished product.  Hell, the final songs are mostly just cool because that’s when they can be shared and played live finally, but by then they’re also totally out of me and I’m on another zillion bad ideas.

So trust your process, whatever it is, but ALWAYS write it down.


3 responses to “Trusting the Process

  1. Great advice.. One thing I always struggle with in my notebooks is when I can hear a bass line, or some type of rhythm in my head. I never could figure out a good way to “note” it in a notebook. At least, not a way that I could understand when I got back to my instruments hours or days later. Any incite on that?

  2. I wish I did– I generally try and write it out in sequence and hope I can figure it out. Hell, I’d say leave yourself a voicemail message or something if you can so you at least have an audio of you humming it or whatever.

    It’s a tricky one. I forget that stuff all the time.:/

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