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Creativity, attitude, trouble-shooting

At this point, you’ve been making stuff for a while. Sometimes it’s great. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes you just want to quit.


Consider the following and the process might be easier.


Cancer and creativity

Everyone’s creative. It’s obvious in some people, not so much in others, but everyone’s got it. Kind of like cancer. We all have cancer cells in our bodies, but they only grow under certain conditions.


Of course, the conditions for cancer are different than the conditions for creativity. Cancer grows if you take stuff in that’s bad for you. Creativity grows if you take in stuff that’s good for you.


If you have the right attitude, creativity helps you discover more of yourself.


Bad attitude

Try making something and see how you feel. What if it doesn’t turn out the way you wanted? Do you throw it against the wall, stomp around the room, agonize over what a pathetic failure you are?


Do you try something else, but never that type of project again?


Maybe you just quit. Maybe you say, “I’m just not talented.” Ugh.


Good attitude

Or maybe you look at what you’ve done, and you ask yourself, “How could I make this better?” This helps you look at what you’ve done objectively. If you can do that, you’ll see things in it that you hadn’t seen before.


You start to see that the things you make aren’t you. They’re just things, and things can be changed, thrown away, whatever. You learn to keep going when you fail.


Don’t get me wrong. This is hard. You have to look at stuff you care about when it’s not working for you. That’s not easy to do. And it’s not always easy to know what to do about it.


Sometimes you just need to throw it away and make something else. But the more you make stuff, the less that happens. It becomes easier to see what’s wrong and easier to fix it.


Fixing it

If you have something that’s not working, there’s usually an identifiable spot where it starts to suck. Play through what you’ve got. Listen really carefully, and stop as soon as you hear that spot.

Now clearly identify the problem. What might be wrong?

  1. Maybe the chord before it needs to be played for another bar.
  2. Maybe the chord in question needs to be placed on a different beat. Try playing it on every beat. Which is best?
  3. Maybe the strumming pattern needs to change. Try a slightly different rhythm.
  4. Maybe the whole thing should be in a completely different style.
  5. Maybe the whole thing needs to be faster/slower.
  6. If it’s a riff or a solo you’re writing, try using long notes if you have a lot of short notes. Or vice-versa.
  7. If it’s a riff or a solo, can you sing the rhythm or the notes? Always start by trying to sing the thing you’re trying to write. You’ll get to the right answer more quickly.


The answer isn’t always as straight forward as these suggestions. But give them a try, and they might lead to other ideas.

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