Cristofori’s Dream by David Lanz

I don’t pay for the Premium package here yet so you’ll have to  click the link to hear the song. Play it while you read. Last week I dug the song out from my messy sheet music binder, and I’ve played it a couple of times since.

My uncle had a decent-sized New Age piano book collection that he kept at my grandparents’ house with other piano music because they had a baby grand, and I loved going through and trying to play all his sheet music growing up. This song was one that I could actually play decently, which was great because it was one I fell in love with. So I photocopied it at the library (10 cents a page!) and played it over and over again at home on our ancient upright piano that was always flat, but flat consistently so the keys were fairly in tune together just almost a 1/2 step lower than it should be. Then in college, I actually arranged it into a flute duet and performed it with a friend of mine, letting her take the first part so I could come in with the harmonies that I loved so much. I haven’t touched it much in recent years, with my piano being at my mother’s house for so long, so it was really nice getting it out. Certain songs are like old friends.

I posted a long time ago about the creative process being able to stop time, and this song, for me, is one that immediately puts me in that space. It is meditative, contemplative, and it takes on the emotional undercurrent of whatever I’m feeling at the time easily and lets me process. So that even when I’m sad or angry, it soothes.

What are the creative processes that you have that put you into a calmer, more present state of being?

The Meandering Path

Everything is opening up for me in rather wonderful ways right now, but they also bring BIG CHANGES, so there’s that to contend with. Jobwise, I have my meeting tomorrow to go over what exactly my new duties are when I shift to the new official position July 1st, I have a wonderful intern that I’ve acquired for the summer, a part-time employee I’ve acquired for the year, and they may have found me a full-time person to work under me, which is amazing. It means that we can do even better projects, I can hopefully stop pulling those 65-75 hour weeks that I occasionally have to do, and I have a chance to do great work in the other areas that they want me to work towards. But it also means that I’m an official “boss”, which is strange. Lifewise, we’re meeting with a mortgage broker next week to see where we’re at, and, strangely enough, an acquaintance just posted a rather lovely home up for sale. Not sure if life intends that direction for us, but we’ll find out next week. And creatively and spiritually, things have been opening and progressing nicely too. I don’t talk too much about that side of my life, because certain areas I like to keep private, but you will see the fruits of my labors spilling out here.

Life has not followed the path that I thought it would in the least, but that’s okay. We’re placed where we’re meant to be to allow us to grow the most, I think, and that is what I will continue to do.

My Fickle Muse

There are days where creation pours out of me, and there are days where my well is dry. Sometimes I can’t wait to jump into my work, and sometimes I have to trick myself into beginning, tap dancing around my hesitancy to plunge into the depths of my subconscious. Tricking myself to do the work most vital to me because to do otherwise would be a waste. And there are projects that flip flop back and forth between these two extremes, a love-hate affair maddening and necessary to my existence.

There are days that I am confident and vibrant and powerful, and there are days where I want to hide, yet many people can’t tell one from the other. I feel contrary to myself and wonder which version of me is closest to reality. And I think there’s a connection between my confidence and my ability to connect to whatever my creative inspiration is.

Shakespeare spoke of a muse of fire, but I long for one of gentle, steady rain. I will take whatever I can get happily though.

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Death and Fighting Our Personal Demons

I don’t normally post when a celebrity dies. It always has struck me as rather crass, as though certain human beings have more value just because they are in the public eye. But I couldn’t go without posting this time. Beyond the sadness for his wife and children, left to pick up the messy pieces he left behind; beyond the sense of something missed, knowing there will never be another character brought to life by him; I just feel sorry. Here is a man who has fought his personal demons and lost.

I know a lot of very talented, very creative people, and regardless of the level of skill or raw talent or stage of success they are at, they (and I) seem to tow a very fine line of managing personal demons. The price you pay for being an artist, and thus moving both deeper in and floating above regular life? Maybe. But I fear for some of the people I know, because I can see the intensity building. And I can’t help but think – what if I didn’t have music and dance growing up? What if I never loved reading and wasn’t able to hide in other worlds when my own mind got too intense? What if I didn’t have my affinity for animals and my love of water to soothe me? What if I had never developed my group of friends who are closer than family and we didn’t have each other to turn to when we experience the long, dark tea time of the soul (yes, a Douglas Adams reference)? What if I wasn’t so overwhelmingly stubborn and determined?

In the end, we all make our own choices, but the choices aren’t always easy ones to make.  And sometimes the weapons we choose to battle our demons end up destroying us instead of making us stronger.

Laying the Groundwork

Laying the groundwork for any creative endeavor (or any undertaking, really) is vitally important, but it is also so difficult!  When you picture a painter, you imagine the artist at the canvas slapping paint all over.  You don’t imagine the hours of sketching, of studying the anatomy of whatever the subject is, of prepping the background, of trying to figure out where the light source is going to be coming from.  When you picture a writer, you imagine the furious typing of a keyboard or ink-stained hands clutching a pen as the muse flows, not the hours of daydreaming, outlining, and researching.  When you picture a musician, you imagine someone sitting down at the piano and having a full song pour out of them, not the time spent hunched over trying to translate the music in your head to the paper, agonizing over a single chord or length of note.  But the reality, at least for me, is that the ground work takes up as much time (if not more) than the actual “creation” itself.

Right now, I am finishing up the outline on a graphic novel (my current big writing project).  My outlines tend to be more of a “key plot points” plus notes on any particulars regarding characters, places, etc (a story bible), verses a traditional outline.  And the outline for this graphic novel is taking me a while because I’ll outline a little bit, then have to think and dream on the story before outlining a little more.  I need to get to know my main character a little better so I can better understand how he will respond to the situation that I have put him in.  Part of me wants to dive into writing, but I know that I’m better off waiting until I understand that main character a little better.

I’ve also begun the agonizingly slow (for me) process of writing out the melody of several of my songs and trying to capture the piano part.  Some people may be able to just sit down and play, but I don’t want to improvise my songs each time I play them.  Someday, maybe, I’ll have money to buy software where I can just play and the software will capture what I’m playing and tell me what key signature and time signature I probably want the song to be in, but until I get to that point, I must do things the old-fashioned pencil on staff paper way, and then input that into my music software.  SO SLOW.  But important so that I can perfect each song.

So I’m in the not-so-fun portion of a few of my creative projects, where I’ve got to actually force myself to do the work because it IS work instead of play.  But I will prevail.  And I hope all of you do the same on your endeavors.  Because it is worth the effort.  I promise.