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Many thanks to member Avalonandon for submitting this fantastic article all about creativity, we hope you'll all find it a very interesting, worthwhile read.
A Brief Discussion on Creativity
Among the many things I enjoy about Acapellas 4U is the diversity of its members and readers. Some of us DJ, some of us engineer or produce, others do mashups and mixes and some write, perform and record with multiple instruments, doing everything themselves. One thing we all share however, is the fact that creativity and inspiration sit at the heart of every musical project we pursue. Indeed, when it comes to working with music, nothing is as important as these subjects. We have an incredible array of technological tools, in depth information at our fingertips and an unprecedented amount of ways to express our music, yet the concepts of inspiration and creativity are rarely taught or discussed as important tools themselves. Maybe due to their vague and mysterious nature it is left up to us artists to sift our way, alone, through the murky and frequently frustrating process, wishing we had the equivalent “help” option to click on, that would light the way to excellent expression.
Back in May, in our “Audio Chat” forum, a discussion emerged about inspiration and creativity. Judging by the comments and the large volume of views, I felt “inspired” to attempt a tutorial, drawing from my own experience and extensive research on the subject. Notice, with humility, I said “attempt”. Knowing this is a very rich and often complicated subject, I will do my best to pick out, simplify and outline some concrete steps that can help creative power to emerge. With this information, it should be possible to develop skills that will improve over time, much like any muscle being exercised and stretched regularly. I will bring together several elements involved in cultivating creativity, and lay a foundation for those magical sparks to ignite more frequently and imaginatively in our creative pursuits. Like any thread in this forum, I encourage and look forward to everyone’s insight, experiences and ideas, ideally, rounding out this “attempt” of mine, and bringing greater success to all of us through its ongoing discussion .
For the sake of simplicity, I am going to present this in a series of elemental topics that foster creativity. There will sometimes be no particular order of concepts, some points being similar and some unique. There are simply too many different elements and concepts to easily unify and flow together in this discussion, so I will break them down into more manageable pieces. In addition, I will mostly approach the subject from the perspective of a writing musician, but in no way excluding those of us who mix, mash, DJ, etc... Although a large portion of our members don’t fall into the category, it is the best way to encompass every focus of our members. Anytime the word “writing” is used, simply substitute your craft and it will apply.
KNOWLEDGE and PRACTICE
“Like an ability or muscle, hearing your inner wisdom is strengthened by doing it.” Robbie Gass
This may seem obvious, but in order to be effectively creative, it is critical to know our craft. There has to be a significant investment in learning everything we can about every aspect of what we do. Again, as obvious as it seems, many artists do not see the direct impact on their creativity that this principle has. It is a step that is often overlooked and leads to limitations for otherwise, very gifted artists. “Knowledge” includes extensive practice and continuous effort towards mastering our instruments, equipment, software, techniques, etc. etc. Of course, this process can frequently be achieved within the creative process itself, but it is also necessary to do a lot of work separately and away from creative sessions, practicing, reading, asking questions, learning, etc. Repetitious practicing, for example, lends itself spectacularly to the creative process. In sports, it is known as “muscle memory”. By doing something, properly, carefully and slowly, over and over, the action is committed to automatic (subconscious) memory, allowing the remaining mental energy to be utilized elsewhere. For an artist, the technical or coordinated aspects become a background process that allows us to FEEL more and create ideas more freely and efficiently. Think about your craft and how this would help you in your work. For me, this means things like practicing scales on my guitar repetitiously so that when I am creatively improvising over a piece, I’m not thinking about hitting the right notes…I am however, free and feeling the rhythmic nuances and the chord changes, unbound by technical thinking - creating from the heart. When it comes to working in my studio, this means knowing as much as possible, and continually learning more, so that when it comes time to be creative, the technical issues, ins-and-outs, don’t need to be worried about. I can just click-and-go, knowing exactly what I am going to do next and not be slowed down by the complexities of my software or equipment. Creativity demands this kind of freedom.
“We have been taught to think that negative equals realistic and positive equals unrealistic.” Susan Jeffers
“Undoubtedly, we become what we envisage.” Claude M. Bristol
When it comes to being creative, nothing stands in the way of the free flow of ideas more than negativity - NOTHING. Acts of creativity are positive actions and require optimism, positive energy, belief and freedom – even if you are dealing with negative topics in your work. I say this because it is foundationally critical to “shut up all of your critics”, internally as well as negative people you know or have known. The biggest mistake an artist can make is to compare or judge. The critics have to be defeated, internally, at all times. Sure it is important to evaluate, but you have to allow yourself room to grow. You must be willing to even…well…SUCK, and learn from it!! The critic you listened to whilst growing up or even now, amongst your peers or mentors, has to be silenced!! Why? Because the inner voice that directs us in our ability to feel our music, our art, our expression – cannot be heard over all of those opinions wailing in our ears! Do you “feel” what I’m saying? It is not about their opinion or perspective. It is about what you and I feel. This is when amazing things happen. When we claim our own individual creative inheritance and let go of the opinion or judgment of others, we can connect with real, genuine creativity. How many times have you been working on a project and noticed asking yourself, “what would so and so think about this?” - or thinking that people in general wont like it or its cheesy or that you , yourself don’t think its good enough? I would say most, if not all of us have battled this at one time or another…or always. It is so important that this mechanism be shut down. If just for a while, during the critical moments of working on a project, we can shut off the thoughts, the past incidents and negativity that clouds our free flow of ideas, we will make progress. There has to be a feeling of freedom to try anything and everything we feel or imagine or experiment with. If we are too concerned with others opinions, we wont reach for novelty and new ideas…and this is what real creativity is about. It’s about reaching for something new
“Inspiration may be a form of superconsciousness, or perhaps of subconsciousness –I wouldn’t know. But I am sure it is the antithesis of self-consciousness.”
“To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive.” Robert Louis Stevenson
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
What needs to occur within all of us is a “positive mental attitude”. Whether you are mystical and religious or agnostic, atheist and purely rationalistic, it is a well demonstrated and proven fact that believing or affirming something, tends to make it so. The positive power of the mind to create results is formidable. Simple acts of daily affirmations, visualizations and meditations have a powerful affect on outcome. Blocking out negativity and replacing it with strong visions of where and how we want to be in the future, is a proven way to positive results. Very simply, believing it, visualizing it, and working towards it, tends to make it so. Write down your goals and hang them up in your workspace, room or anywhere you will regularly see them – but write them in the present tense…and believe them!! Example:” I am free from the opinions of others and now, deeply connected with my own, unique and amazing expression.” I won’t bother to convince you about these concepts in this tutorial, just Google.com things like “affirmations” and “visualizations”, and you will find an incredibly rich and detailed amount of information.
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Pablo Picasso
“The most important muse of all is our own inner child.”
“At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.” Jean Houston
Think of when we were children and how we played. Think of how completely unrestricted, full of crazy and silly imaginative ideas we were, and how utterly unselfconscious we were!! This is key!! This is the exact mindset we need to pursue, revive and cultivate in order to best tap into our creative spirits. The cool thing is that our childhood never disappears; its freedom usually just gets forgotten. We still have within us this amazing perspective, but for most of us, it is clouded by “growing up”, responsibility, social expectations, etc. Like any muscle, it only needs to be exercised and developed, utilized and applied. Fall back into that wondrous and magical world we all knew as children. The major difference is we are now dealing with far more sophisticated “toys” and are equipped with knowledge, experience and insight - making the possibilities ENDLESS! As soon as we grasp this, everything changes. Here is how I approach my music and I invite and encourage more members’ ideas on this:
I usually have a basic idea or two that I will lay down in a relaxed way, on a couple of tracks in a new session. Then my imagination lets loose. I may “hear” an acoustic guitar somewhere or a quirky keyboard sound or a unique rhythm etc. I will COMPLETELY detach myself from “reality”…follow me here…, plug in, and PLAY. I mean, really play – like a kid in a pile of leggos, mud or any other totally malleable substance. I let go. I experiment and I do not, absolutely do not, criticize. I FEEL. Then I put that instrument down and plug in another. Ill start up my keyboard and Reason software, start scrolling thru a million different sounds while my basic tracks are playing in the background…until whoa!! That’s it!! I find a sound that kicks me in the gut and I know its right. I start recording again, with no judgment, no concern for mistakes or goofiness…I just FEEL. I will record 4,5 or more, tracks of the same instrument, mostly experimental playing…sometimes I will catch a melody or riff or rhythm that clicks….and then I will play with that, building on it or twisting it, probing all of its options and possibilities (all the while recording every bit of it).
This can go on and on or just stop at one or two instruments. To really maximize the approach, I don’t listen to it for at least a day. Sometimes I wait several. This gives me time to mostly forget what I did, allowing me to even further detach from any kind of technical evaluation….because I’m not remembering, “oh yeah, at that point, I jumped up an octave because it felt too repetitious or I felt a transition coming” (judging), etc…It further promotes the whole concept of feeling what I am doing.
“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect, but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.” C.G. Jung
“The purpose of art is not a rarified, intellectual distillate – it is life, intensified, brilliant life” Alain Arias-Mission
One final note here on childishness – BE YOURSELF. The amazing lack of self consciousness in children is one of life’s enduring examples of purity. In this oblivious mindset exists a very important key to creativity. For sure, it is valuable and indeed, impossible to not be influenced by the music and art we have grown up with and experience daily. But beyond that lies the self. No matter what, we are all “standing on the shoulders of giants” and, “There is nothing new underneath the sun”. But what is new, is our own unique expression and interpretation of old ideas. This is at the heart of creativity. What is YOUR take on music? What moves YOU emotionally, intellectually or spiritually? Answering these questions while creating, with complete abandonment and the absence of worry about others opinions, unlocks a whole universe of unique expression.
At this point, after I have laid down many tracks, I go back in a more technical, structural – but still creative and open – state of mind. I start listening to each individual track, up against the foundational ones, and feel what works. I pick through the crazy, experimental explorations, and dozens of mistakes, and cut out what either doesn’t work or I just don’t feel. This is just as fun as the initial recording. It is a stage of both artistic and self discovery. What would have qualified as a total mistake at the time I recorded it, several days later, can become an amazing transition that I NEVER would have “thought” of. …but my feeling, creative spirit is able to reach thru and communicate!! Some of the most incredible things I have written were MISTAKES!! Ok…maybe not so much mistakes…but “meant-to-bes” that could only find their way to the surface by suspending technical thinking. Do you see where I am going here? I hope so, because this is just as much an emotional, intuitive process as it is an intellectual and technical expression of our souls that often defies explanation. It is felt. But in order to accomplish this, we have to, absolutely MUST suspend our overly intellectual tendency to critique almost everything we do.
In addition, utilize the constructive opinions of others whom you trust. Web sites like AC4U are perfect for this. Stay away from places that have a lot of negativity thrown around…AC4U is a positive place to go and full of talent. You may not agree with the opinions, but be very careful to really listen to what is said. Try to be objective but of course, never lose sight of your own expression just because someone else isn’t feeling it…and there will be lots of those people. But most of the time, even if someone is not into the same style, helpful, constructive criticism and kudos are abundant.
One more thing that helps me a lot, when I’m “stuck”, is to just put it down and walk away for a while. Go work on another project. Go do something completely unrelated. Wait a week, month, however long you need. Chances are extremely high that if you were inspired in the first place, you will get it back at some point. More on this shortly…
“Do not fear mistakes – there are none.” Miles Davis
EVERYONE is creative. It is a central part of being human. This being a music forum, of course, the concepts in this discussion will be dealing with music directly, but all of these principles can be applied to other artistic disciplines.
With that said, I think it is extremely important to start with an honest self analysis. Many people pursue music, hoping to “make it” or do something in the business, but many of those individuals truthfully, are not gifted musically, in any way. Now this is important: I believe that music should be pursued with our OWN fulfillment in mind, first. If this is ones main goal and ultimately it doesn’t matter what others think, then TRUE talent does not matter. The music experience for the individual will be its own reward. HOWEVER, if you are also highly dedicated to promoting your music and eventually succeeding in the business, you MUST be honest, objective and open to the possibility that you may not be naturally gifted enough to “succeed”(let alone the obvious difficulty experienced by even the most talented artists). Or maybe you have talent in one area, but not in others. The main reason why this is important is that if you are not a “natural” or have not developed some specific talent, you will eventually meet with negative responses, criticism and overall lack of acceptance. This can completely shut down your creative spirit, discourage you, depress you and make you completely abandon music…or worse, ANY creative pursuit. This is bad. If you do meet with resistance on a consistent basis and/or come to realize that music is not your particular strength, you will want to do a serious self evaluation as to what your motives are, and if you still wish to pursue music for yourself alone. But this in no way, should stop anyone from realizing their own special, creative gifts…EVERYONE has one or more, it just may not be music.
“Poetry often enters through the window of irrelevance.” M.C. Richards
“To keep the body in good health is a duty…Otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” Buddha
Inspiration is the fuel upon which creativity thrives. Creativity is the action and inspiration is the desire, drive and energy behind it. One of the most important things an artist can do is keep the two in balance with each other. By this I mean that our inspiration has to be replenished and refreshed. It can be over taxed and run out. Many artists aren’t aware of this fact, and literally burn themselves out…wondering why they are suddenly and unexplainably, “blocked”. The process of creativity is a cycle that begins with energetic inspiration. This drives the creative process, but leaves a vacancy in its wake. So it is essential that we as musicians actively seek experiences and live in such a way that will rejuvenate our creative spirits. This should become a regular priority with the specific goal of feeding our energy. Here is a very random list of activities may help our inspiration. It is something that should be taken seriously and approached with a sense of positive outcome so make it fun, intense, exciting…anything that YOU find encouraging to your work.
- For musicians especially, any kind of concert or music event can be extremely effective in generating new ideas or perspectives.
- For me, it is very inspiring to get out into nature regularly. I go to the beach, try to go camping for a week, or just drive somewhere into the country to get away and gain a different perspective.
- Read up about your biggest artist influences. What is their story, what inspires them or drives them and what events in their lives provide fuel for their work?
- Surround yourself with things that affect you sensually. Artwork, pictures, sculpture, plants, incense, candles, mood lighting, anything that stimulates your senses and takes you away from the average, day to day experience. Make your work space a special environment that is more than just a studio. When I write and record, I light candles and incense, pull up visually inspiring pictures on one of my three monitors, and pull myself out of the mundane…almost going into an altered state of consciousness.
Another important (and often overlooked or abused) aspect of inspiration is mental and physical health. It is important to take care of our bodies by exercising regularly, eating well and not overworking or under-resting. Needless to say, creativity is a brain activity, so if we are not taking care of our selves physically, mentally and psychologically our creative inspiration will suffer. It is a proven fact that there is a direct link between physical health and mental clarity. Drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, laziness and poor eating habits, can greatly limit our power and excellence or deplete creative energy entirely.
- Any kind of meditation or spiritual pursuit is among the best generators of inspiration. One does not even have to believe in “the spiritual” to benefit from the act of meditation. It is an utterly natural and normal activity that does wonders for the mind and body. However, those who do approach things from a spiritual perspective, claim to benefit even more from their beliefs by tapping into what they refer to as “God”, “the collective conscious”, or “the God mind” - potent sources of knowledge,
strength and creative insight.
This could go on and on because there is just so much to be said about creativity. But in another way, it is really very simple. It’s all about “play”. Keeping the spirit alive, the fascination, the experimenting, the bold and non-self-conscious attitude – all of these approaches are how a child plays. Stay balanced as much as possible, be open and willing to think outside of the “norm”. If anyone is interested, there is one book that I feel is absolutely the most incredible ever written on the subject. It is called “The Artists’ Way” and the author is Julia Cameron. It is considered by many to be the “Bible” on creativity of every kind. I strongly suggest this to anyone who is very serious about their work.
I wish all of you the best of luck and would love to hear any comments about this.
Wow. Makes a change to read something with such detailed and helpful content. You have said people should simply "play". That is what creativity is. When you write and the same person is doing all the writing, mixing, engineering, things become clouded because all of those roles merge into one. One which is commonly referred to (incorrectly IMO) as a Producer. As you "play" that is all you should be concentrated on. If an idea to engineer or mix the sound enters the imagination, then get a pad and pen and write it down in a brief and understandable description. A dictation machine is just as good. Concentrate on each process one at a time.
Don't let the other roles interfere with the writing process. Get the idea down first. A phrase I remember from training........ "Nobody walks down the street whistling a mixing desk", well, unless you know the desk in question and it makes a faulty noise. Doesn't mean you can't experiment with the mix, but people don't remember it like musical content.
Excellent observation!! I wholeheartedly agree and that is exactly what I do. Its almost like you have to enter into different frames of mind at different times...sectoring them off. They have to exist separately at different times and as you get closer to the end of a project, they start to all work together more simultaneously on the bigger picture.
First of all, I have to say that you have a limitless list of gifts.
First of all, I have to say that you have a limitless list of gifts.
First of all, I have to say that you have a limitless list of gifts.
First of all, I have to say that you have a limitless list of gifts.
First of all, I have to say that you have a limitless list of gifts.
the article is a mantra for the successful. i take regular breaks from my work and visit many places like here to forget before i re-engage. it is an excellent piece and many pro creative personnel use similar methods. non pro personnel don't seem too and this should help them. you should copyright it.
This is an excellent guide to removing the buckles on the creative straight jacket.
PS. Meant to comment some time ago, but forgot. And judging the by amount of responses, people are so astounded by the depth of this correct advice.
Amount of responses? Lol. I cant tell if you are kidding or not...but I will give you the benefit of the doubt and say thanks.
Yeah, I was joking mate.
Perhaps people are numb to the effects that they fail to see a writing block. Or, and more likely, they don't care about the pride many of the people take in getting something good and original from development to an end product.
Thanks to this tut though, I regained the 'stuff the production and run with the ball' approach and many new dimensions of sound have appeared. Things outside the box have become ear pricking and new dimensional. In fact, I blame you for me deciding to give up modding because of this.
It wasn't you actually, but between me accidentally removing myself from modding and having no use being here so often (all through a stumbling writing block) your tut gave a rebirth to it being reborn.
Now then, I'm ready to be re-baptised at the church of avalonandon.
It was as good as anything Reiki. Infact this and Reiki should should be the guide for any stumbling muso/writer et al. Won't use the word producer.
Take care mate.
Well then, thanks indeed...now you teach me Reiki (lol, is there a contradiction in there?) and we can mutually benefit each other (besides the GREAT advice on studio monitors you gave me). - oh and the copyright advice...and telling me you weren't a hot blond woman...oh my!
I know only how to receive Reiki. So here goes....
Have no coffee a day or so before, and drink water before and after. During the session (you should have lovely ambient atmospheric music playing) simply relax to the point of being asleep. Let yourself be open to the spiritual side (the higher) of life.
Absorb it all, and let out what you need to let out. Afterwards you may be very very emotional. I was full of rejuvenated vigour for life.
If you're struggling to find a Reiki practitioner try finding out about any local spiritualist churches and ask them to recommend one. I was approached for mine, and I believe I was meant to be approached because I would not have asked for it. I said yes, after some thought, and I'm highly grateful because I believe it saved my life and pulled me away from depression's last stop.
A bit personal, but that's what it did for me. And now I'm a very different person. An higher being spiritually. Perfect for music.
Hope that helps ya mate.
Sounds intense. I am ripe for this.
Do you mean no caffeine, specifically? Or a general kind of fasting? Nothing but water etc?
And this is still on topic as far as Im concerned
Yeah, definitely on topic.
Simply avoid any stimulants. Caffeine, alcohol etc... the water is meant to help you absorb the energies that stimulants can prevent. You can still eat what you want. In fact, I found the effects to be more so after having had something to eat shortly before.
One of the things that was done for me involved the Chakras being reversed from where they had gone. It was after that session I was on such an high for weeks. I was full of energy, and creativity shot through the roof.
I think I've said before, it is something I would recommend to anybody, and in any walk of life, but the big upside is the boost in confidence and the creative side.
That is really interesting to know about you. The semester ends this week and I am going to be making some huge changes due to the freedom. One of them is to immerse myself in the pursuit of meditation. I used to pray alot and it took on the form of meditation eventually. Not sure why I stopped but I know that I really really want this. I located some info in the form of pdf files on reiki and I am going to include it in my activities.
Look forward to corresponding with you..."mate"...lol.
Great write up, thanks! Can't believe I didn't notice this until now. Definitely worth the time it took to read.
When I think creativity, I always end up thinking of Bohemian Rhapsody. How the fark did that song ever happen? Who sits down and comes up with THAT? Such an incredible song for so many reasons.
thank you very much for the tutorial. i am a talented musician (not vanity here, just a fact of life) that doesn't practice as i should..hope i use my abilities in a consequent way from now on
thank you again
That is a fantastic example indeed! That song definitely seems like an amalgam of all of these elements, the foremost being AMAZING talent. I can easily imagine the process of completely "letting go" and playing with the music in every way, while remaining grounded in a substantial foundation of musical and instrumental expertise.
Printed this 1-2 years ago.. Read it once more and I had to come back here and say Thanks again!
So many basic but important things are written here, things that we overlook and take for granted maybe.
I find reading about new techniques gets me creative as well as listening to new music but the problem I have when listening to favourite artists whilst or before producing a track is that it sets me up for higher standards to achieve with the sense of defeat that shortly follows a few hours into the project... so on the day I produce I literally dont both listening to anything and go on ideas and past influences heard yonks ago...
Approach to the project plays a big part in creativity I think, if you aim to create a certain exact sub style in the genre that your producing it never really stacks up after tinkering around for a few hours in the mix. Finding a collection of samples including things like a catchy vocal, some brilliant new presets you produced a month ago in such and such synth really gets a few ideas buzzing.
Happy accidents work well but learning how to program sounds by spending a day here and there instead of aiming to produce tracks keeps things interesting.
thanks alot, avalonandon. I printed this and review it sometimes to keep it in mind!
excellent contribution, thank you so much.
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