Having downed most of my tools about a week ago I must admit that I have done less composing than I should have done over the past days. Past of it is the need for a rest and a break, to reset the brain just a little, and I know that it is only a passing thing and definitely not permanent.
While in a bookshop yesterday I read in an introduction about an author who could only write when they are commissioned, and I wondered whether the same was true about me. Perhaps not – I have a commission on the go at the moment (the work for narrator and violin) and am making steady progress with it, but I do still write when all is quiet.
What really gets me going, though, is a deadline, especially one that is slightly too close for comfort. With Brindisi, after many weeks of planning and abortive starts, eventually it got to the point where I had to begin writing, and then the piece fell into place in short order.
It may also be that a deadline not only provides me with a reason to start writing, but also a point at which I have to stop and need to leave the piece, no matter what state it might be in. Without those buffers there can be a tendency to tinker and refine, think, rethink and overthink, until something more important comes along.
Oddly, it is getting the manuscript out and pencils ready that seems to provide the steepest gradient of the compositional process. Takemitsu would (apparently) sharpen his pencils, gaze out at his trees and listen to the B minor Mass before beginning to write, and maybe I need more of a ritual, more of something to get me in the zone.