The musician in me wants to embrace this romantic notion of music-writing. Something like “I got inspired today, so I wrote this beautiful song.”
But the educator in me wants to teach the world about the misconception of such a notion, what it means to actually pursue music, and why, although the actual process may not be as cool as the above romanticized version, is actually the coolest thing ever.
It is great that there are so many ways to enjoy music. I am a creator, and I am much more interested in creating rather than consuming. I’m not as interested in consuming music, or rather, consuming much of anything, hence the reason I don’t own a TV or a smartphone, and I don’t surf the internet unless specific circumstances require me to. Some people even find it shocking that I don’t have internet at home, but to me, living distraction-free is a great way to maximize the time to create music and thereby increase my level of happiness. However I do appreciate that the world also has consumers, like the people who like to enjoy music by listening to them. Many of my songs were written with a specific audience in mind.
But one thing is very clear to me. The world needs more creators. Fulfillment in one’s life pretty closely matches the ratio of how much one creates as opposed to how much they consume. The happiest people I know and have worked with closely are all creators. So although I don’t advocate that we stop being consumers completely from this moment on, I do encourage everyone to create more. It doesn’t have to be a piece of music, and it doesn’t even need an audience. But do create something. Maybe a wonderfully tasty meal, a lecture on a topic you care deeply about, or the first draft of the first chapter of that novel you’ve always fantasized about writing. You will notice that all of these things don’t just happen simply because you got inspired. It takes a lot of time to build up the necessary knowledge and to refine your skills to get to a point where you can create something beautiful.
To make good music first requires acknowledging your shortcomings. Only then can you define what work it will take to overcome them. It helps if you can find pleasure in knowing that there are things you cannot do yet but you do have the potential to accomplish with effort. Either way, in the end it simply comes down to actually putting forth that required effort. That’s all, there are no secrets to it. This process is not “fun” in the traditional sense that people use that word. “Struggle” might be more befitting. But I argue that the struggle is where the fun is. The constant struggle shapes you in ways you would never have imagined. There is nothing more fulfilling than going to bed each evening knowing that you made progress today, and you will again tomorrow. This daily progress is so small that nobody except you noticed. But the little steps add up over time, and in what seems like a blink of an eye (to others, not you), you will reach a point where people say things like, “How the heck do you do what you do?” “You’re so talented!”, and “Your work is so beautiful! What inspired you?”
It is a tragedy that “talent” is so commonly regarded as the factor that limits what a person can accomplish in life. “Talent” is a false concept, there is no such thing. So although it may be tempting to say that a person is “talented”, please, be careful when you use that word, especially around children who are still forming ideas about how the world works.
All of the above is not to discount inspiration, I do get inspired to write music from time to time. But most of the time when I write, it is intentional. And even in times when I get lucky and catch a whiff of inspiration, what I am able to do as a result of that inspiration is still limited by the skills I have built up slowly over time by being intentional about my growth.
I didn’t choose to pursue music because I wanted to become great. Actually, I admit, I do yearn to write a great song and I think all musicians do, but that’s just a possible outcome of my trying, and I don’t have full control over that, so it is not the most productive goal to work toward if I am to be at peace with my current self, because most of the music I write I don’t even like. They are pretty bad. And if I don’t ever achieve a point where people consider my music to be “great”, I will be perfectly okay with that. That’s not really the point of music anyway. Music was invented as a way for people to have fun. I am a musician because the very act of creating is fun and fulfilling. I simply feel blessed just for having the opportunity for even the remote chance that I might create something beautiful, and even if I end up creating a bad piece of music, well, I would still have had a whole lot of fun doing it, so what more can I ask for?