The struggles of composing and how I motivate myself
I thought I would share the struggles I face when composing music and my experiences of motivating myself to compose music on a day-to-day basis. It is most of the time an absolute struggle and even if I do compose full-time, I reckon it will still be a struggle. I’ve listed out some of the reasons why I struggle, which if you compose music, you may relate to followed by some ways I use to motivate myself:
Other commitments - I don’t compose music full-time and with my job, occasionally, the week gets really busy. I also like to do some active stuff like swimming and dancing. Plus I have a huge social life and a few other hobbies like cooking which I never want to lose… so taking all of these commitments into account, my time for composing music is limited to a few hours each week. Plus, a lot of the time, I am distracted by these other commitments so I can’t focus my mind on composing.
Feeling unemotional – I personally think that the best music is written when someone feels emotional. A lot of music out there is about heart breaks for example and definitely from experience, when I am heart-broken, all I want to do is just compose music… it’s a mechanism of healing myself. My piece ‘Dawn in Berlin’ was a result of one for example and I feel like that piece was my favourite out of all the pieces I have composed so far because it really did come from the heart and stayed true to what had happened in my life. So unfortunately, when I am feeling positive (which is actually most of the time), I really struggle with composing.
Feeling lazy – it is a ton of work to compose a single piece. A lot of my melodies come from singing in the shower or just humming to myself on the tube. I then try to record what I’ve thought about then try to put a piece of music together on the piano. I usually play the piece first (and commit it to memory) before writing / scoring it using my laptop. It is a lot of work and even more so when the music is not made using MIDI because with MIDI, not as much thought goes into the instrumentation. The thought of all of this work makes me feel lazy.
Feeling unoriginal – I always think to myself when I compose, have I heard this somewhere before? Then I’d try to think… hmm… no I don’t think so because I think I would straight away know. But it’s that constant pressure of being an 'original' composer which does make me scrub out some of the music I write, return back to square one.
Feeling unsuccessful - It is delusional to think that composing music can bring you lots of fame and money. I realise this before I worked on 'Impetus.' However, I can't help but feel unsuccessful at times i.e. why isn't my music getting a lot of exposure which is what every composer wants? Music is created to be shared so I find that it is important as a composer to get as much exposure as possible. I am not a composer who wants a financial return for the music I create like composers who create music for stock libraries - I just want to reach out and touch as many people as I could.
Ways to motivate myself
Thinking about creativity - I think about how truly out-of-this-world wonderful it is to create something that simply originates from me. The activity enriches my life in a way that no other activity does - travelling is obviously incredibly fun but compared to composing music, it just seems to be a much more 'transient' activity. I can visit this and this place for a few days, see the most beautiful sights, eat the best food etc. then afterwards, I am back to normal life (I take lots of pictures and videos to record what I've seen for memories but the reality is, I am back to normal life). Whereas when I compose a piece of music, this piece will remain with me for the rest of my life. I was always into creating art as well but I just don’t feel the same way about it compared to how I feel when I compose music. Music speaks to me much more than a painting does. Da Vinci has said, ‘music is the sister of painting.’ I guess they’re similar – with music, you hear something and it makes you feel a certain way. With art, you see something and it makes you feel a certain way. Both involves the use of imagination and open to interpretation. I always shed a tear when I hear my music being played by other instrumentalists for the first time… and then I realise, yes… oh my word… that is what I’ve created. No moment in my life ever beats that moment of amazement, in particular after listening to the piece countless times through MIDI. The idea of being able to create is what motivates me to compose.
Thinking about memories and perspectives - Composing music for me is like writing a journal. I want to record my memories and perspectives through music.
Listening to other composers’ music – whether online or at concerts, nightclubs, ballets and operas, I think it is incredibly important to listen to other composers' music. This is a great way of motivating myself. By listening to other people’s music. I often feel emotional then I would be like, wow… you know what… I could compose like that. Yes, it’s a very self-centred feeling but it is great that I feel that way and shows that I have confidence in my abilities to compose. Also, I feel that by listening to other composers' music, I can be inspired. I then realise that no composer is truly original and all music is created by inspiration.
Setting resolutions - I set resolutions i.e. I must complete my second album ‘Blossom’ by the end of 2019. This way, I try to at least dedicate more time to composing and less time to other activities because it is getting closer to my deadline. I also have a tracker detailing the pieces which I plan to compose, comments on the inspiration behind each piece and deadlines to complete each piece.
Asking for feedback - SoundCloud I think has an amazing community of people who listen to non-mainstream music. I sometimes approach other composers to ask for feedback - any feedback is good whether positive, negative, constructive, non-constructive etc. All of the feedback motivate me to compose more and never give up on this passion I have.
I hope this post is helpful in one way or another and always pursue your passion!