It seems to me that it is quite easy to fall out of habits and rather more difficult to fall into them. It can take a single break in the chain to derail something we once thought was an integral part of our life, while it takes substantially more effort to build up that chain in the first place.
I mention this because the aftermath of the latest builder-related chaos has made me realise that what was a decent working environment here at home has been substantially disrupted of late, and that the routines I had up and running had been swept away. It is difficult enough to stick to these timings when each day is different from the next, as life is for the freelancer, and can be even more tricky to get back into the habit.
Today has been my day of doing just that, however, and I was up bright and early, at my desk before seven, and getting in a goodly stint of work, not just answering emails and the like, but also writing a decent chunk of material for the string piece. This now weighs in at around eight minutes worth of music in various states of completion, and all three movements are now at the stage where the narrative journey is clear to see.
I have also stepped back a little from too much technique over the past few days, letting instinct take me where it will and applying the corrective hand only later. This has resulted in a significant and immediate surge in creativity, and I am already hunting around for a couple of competitions to write for, as I am optimistic of getting this and the Exeter piece close to finished by the end of the month.
Writing can be a constant process of refinement, and adding material to one section changes the proportions of an entire work, often making it sound completely out of kilter, even if the addition of that material has been a step in the right direction. I had that feeling very strongly a couple of times this morning, very much a left-a-bit right-a-bit session of writing, a correction here necessitating a correction there and so on, much like a sculptor getting down to the first detail work.
I have also reorganised my writing room, transferring my work area from underneath the window (too light, too hot, too distracting) to the far end of the room. My back is to the stairway and I am as far as possible from the rest of the house. What this means in terms of feng shui I do not know (a creative blind alley, perhaps?), but there is something satisfyingly apart about the whole thing. As a bonus, I also have more creative space, and things just feel right. I am reminded of the story of Alice Elgar moving her husband’s desk away from the window to stop him sitting there all the time gazing at the Malverns rather than getting on with his latest opus.
In all the post-Wimbledon “did it really happen?” happiness I have also been scouring the internet to find out more about Ivan Lendl and what the man preaches, for he has clearly made a world of difference to certain people. It seems, sadly, that his preaching is done largely in private, and probably at a cost prohibitive to all but the most successful composers, but large chunks of it appear to be about self-belief, learning from defeat and being critical of oneself in an ultimately constructive way. So much of music, whether directing, performing or writing, goes on in the head, and tennis, an individual sport, of course, is only to a certain extent about the body and the physical technique. Part of the reason I adore the Wimbledon fortnight so much is because I love to watch how people react under pressure and try to discern why champions crumble or tower. Granted, we cannot all have Ivanisevic levels of belief, but we could probably all benefit from believing in ourselves a little more. For me this comes down to writing, writing and then writing some more, and if that means earlier starts and rearranging rooms, then so be it. I just need to keep the builder out of the house for a while.