On Saturday morning, with some time on my hands before rehearsal, I sat down with my pencils and manuscript and threw down some more sketches for my latest piece. The deadline is not far away, so part of the decision was born of pure necessity, but I have also been desperate this week to spend some proper time creating.
At this early stage I have to keep reminding myself that I need to get as many ideas onto paper as possible and tidy them up later, that I should be engaged in the compositional equivalent of a pianist improvising at the keyboard. Even if everything that trips off the end of the pencil seems now to be devoid of imagination or polish, the most important thing is that it is there.
I tell my composition students that they need to be aware of the difference between the creative and the critical, that these two halves of the writing process usually need to be consciously separated. If not, especially at the beginning of the journey through a new piece, the critical can stifle any ideas, so the writer needs to ignore that nagging knowledge that what they are writing is not quite good enough.
Once the ideas are down they can be shaped, polished or even rejected, and if having ten times as many pages of sketches as there are in the finished piece was good enough for Beethoven…well, you can guess the rest. It has also helped that I was able to stand inches from various composers’ manuscripts earlier this week, always an inspiration.
What I have written so far on this piece is patchy, disjointed and, for the most part, not very impressive, but at least it is a start, and without a start one cannot go anywhere. At the moment I cannot tell where the end lies, but I know that it is out there just waiting to be found.