It sounds obvious, but it is easily forgotten in the swirl of everything else that can go on around a composer’s life, and it is this – sometimes you just have to sit down and write. Forget about the planning, forget about the doodles, just sit down and write something.
Like many others I am an expert in giving myself an excuse to get out of doing exactly that. I will tell myself that I do not know enough about the form, or that I do not have enough thematic material, or that I have yet to choose the most suitable scale pattern or set of pitches or whatever, but the mere act of writing – often the last thing on my mind – is inspirational in itself.
I articulate this now because I broke with tradition a couple of hours ago and began writing a piece directly to the computer, having sat down and sketched various different motivic outlines over the past couple of days, and I already feel that I have made a start that is pretty decent, but which is also sparking off idea after idea of how the piece should go. Rough words and scribbles on paper are normally where I work best, but seeing the shape appear on the screen directly in full score (unusual for me) is giving me a much more concrete idea of how this particular work should progress, in the sense of if this, then probably that.
It helps that the music I have written this morning is slow and introductory, which means that it has been relatively easy to come up with a decent amount of material in terms of time, but what has proven so useful is that I have clearly also come up with a decent amount of material in terms of ideas as well, and I am only taking a break now to refresh my brain and allow it to assimilate the information it has acquired so far. For the rest of today those ideas will swirl around my cerebellum, tonight too, and tomorrow I shall see what I have managed to come up with in the background.
I doubt very much that this piece will write itself, for I have enough experience to know that that rarely happens, but a good start is usually a decent omen of smoothish waters to come. The piece also sounds interesting as well, full of possibilities, an opening rather than an ending, so I think also that I have the right material in the right place, and that would have to represent a good stint of work.