I can write a complete finished 400-1000 word article each day every day starting with a blank screen and zero inspiration. I can create a complete polished recording of original music that lasts 30-60 seconds each day every day. That is not to say anyone besides myself will be pleased with my end product. I can pump out short works daily and have fun doing it but I seem limited to this smallish scope.
Here’s what I don’t know:
Is it my own limitation that the scope of my ideas are not worth expanding beyond a certain point? Is it my innate limitation that I cannot create larger works? Or is it my lack of craft in knowing how to take an idea and effectively expand and develop it? I did graduate college with a minor in writing and a major in music so education has served to help me get this far.
With the music I can make a nice little piece as I’ve already mentioned. Over on the right-hand column in the third player down is a piece named “Pasta”. Go ahead and listen to the whole 45 second piece. It is solid, snappy, complete, and in my mind a nice little recording. That took about 3 hours from forming the idea all the way to creating the finished recording you just listened to. Fantastic, right? Genius!
The problem is that if I were to try and make that into a 3-minute instrumental piece it would take literally months. MONTHS! About three months of mostly miserable agonizing, berating myself for being an incompetent idiot, and finally at the end I will have a lovely completed piece. I have a number of songs that I have not introduced into the players yet that would be good examples to listen to. “Self-Indulgent Crap” over there fits the bill but it is definitely not something just anyone would enjoy.
So here’s the thing: Should I agonize and try to produce more significant pieces? I could suffer and make one 3-minute song or instead have a giddy time creating 90 snappy little song-lets in the same time frame. Is that not the stupidest question you ever heard? Should I be miserable all the time or should I have lots of fun?
Isn’t there a compromise?
I do short works really well. These blog articles are a lovely means of expression for my word pieces. Maybe I could aspire to write like Frank Herbert in his later works where there are a series of very short “chapters” where he is constantly changing scenes and the reader fills in the gaps. I would still have the issue of creating a grand scheme but I could make that pyramid out of the little blocks that I am so comfortable and happy making.
With the music, there is a form called a suite. Loosely speaking for my purposes here, a suite would be a collection of pieces that when played in sequence would go together even though the musical ideas might not be related. A “mix tape” where you put together love songs in a certain order that you like to listen to when in a certain mood is similar in concept where they are done by different bands maybe with different instruments in different keys but somehow they still go together. Maybe with my smaller pieces I can similarly group them together and create my own sort of “suite”.
So there is my great problem at 55 years of age. I’m really good at things but only up to a certain size. I can happily produce bite-sized ideas almost like a factory churning out product every day so long as there is no constraint on what those words will be about or what instruments or type of music a short composition will be.
If I am to write a book I must write it as a series of short pieces even as it forwards a larger story. If I am to be happily productive writing music I must develop my own style of musical suite.
The moral of the story seems to be to find what flows for you, determine what you want to do, and then see how what you can do applies to what you desire. In that process one would suppose that either your skill set, your craft, needs improving or your goals adjusted.
I’m tickled. I have a music form to create. I do indeed have a novel seething in me and the prospect of writing a large story by making a series of rather short disjointed scenes intrigues me.
Do what you can instead of struggling with what you can’t.
We shall see.