Of Block and Scope

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.

11 thoughts on “Of Block and Scope

  1. Ok, first comment! I am similar in that inspiration seems to come in very short bursts, it does not tend to be sustained, which is why I keep a notebook with me at all times. And often my work is complete or near complete in those moments, not requiring significant editing or reworking. I find that if something does need to be reworked a whole lot, it was likely forced anyways and it’s generally better if I trash it and start over. BUT (you know this but is important because it’s in caps), that process of agonizing over something for months, of feeling like you’re ripping it out of some weird corner of your mind, can lead to greater depth. I also like to let things sit for months and then come back to them. Sometimes that whole process feels like I’m taking a garlic press to my insides, squishing them all up in order to squeeze out a pittance of work. But that work can be astounding.

    • So VERY glad to see you Morgan!!! When I look at you here in my secret lair I’m seeing:

      Morgan Y, “Shut the Fuck Up from here in Canada”

      I get what you are saying from both barrels, firstly that something that doesn’t just flow and fights you every inch of the way is not what it seems and is never going anywhere. The other barrel suggests that the agonizing work pays off and I do find that to be true with the things I do manage to fight through and finish.

      What hurts most for me is all the cool little things I could have done while agonizing and getting nowhere. I have a lot of things I’ve spent a lot of time agonizing over that will probably never see the light of day. I do have a jazzy little beatnik thing about a Daddy Long Legs spider that I might be able to squeeze out. I’m kinda close with that one.

      LOVE SEEING YOU!!!!!

  2. Ha! Jim, I feel like you are talking to me 🙂 I was thinking about this over my holiday… And this seems a prudent thing to do: “Do what you can instead of struggling with what you can’t.” YES! I feel like when I commit to what I know but leave myself open to possibilities, I learn more and the lessons resonate deeper. Thanks for writing this!

  3. Morgan Y, “Shut the Fuck Up from here in Canada”

    I should have letterhead made.

    I have been working on something for a couple of months now that is like pulling teeth. The individual bits are fine in and of themselves but won’t come together into a cohesive whole. Deadlines = must force it to finish, but I hate that because I know if I were to let it simmer for longer, it would come together on its own. I find that to be one of the big stumbling blocks, actually: often, if work is fighting me, it’s because I haven’t fully assimilated everything I need to, I haven’t latched on to the organizing thread yet. I am missing something. I’m not done with the treasure hunt in my mind.

    Maybe that would help? It’s not torture and agony, it’s a treasure hunt and you’re a pirate! Arrrr!

    • I have always believed that limitations and deadlines are what produce tangible and sometimes useful results. When you can do “anything” there is no focus, when there is no deadline many things will never reach fruition. My own limitations naturally produce blog-sized articles which is why I’m here producing a rapidly growing body of work. Somehow I am self focusing; related to your conundrum, I normally have a dozen things percolating and as one finishes brewing I pour the cup and then fuss over how much sugar and cream to complete the cup. Less metaphorically, once I’m close I write it down as fast as I can and then fuss over polishing it into a coherent statement and if I can throw in some sarcasm and a twist at the end then all the better. What would irony be? Molasses, cinnamon, butter, lemon? SOMEONE FINISH MY METAPHOR!!!

      • There is a fine line between being motivated and disciplined, and just writing a bunch of crap because you have to. And by fine line I mean gaping chasm of doom into which your soul is flung like Gandalf after the Balrog of Morgoth. Yes, I’m using LOTR references. Deal with it.

        Pirates would have rum in their coffee, no?

  4. It is bizarre reading a bunch of Apple-related blogs. It is amazing how there is always a topic of the day that they all magically gravitate to. One day it is the rumor of the Apple iWatch; another day, coincidentally, every independent-from-each-other blog is about how Steve Jobs was left footed. Buncha noncreative maroons who can’t write and can’t come up with their own topic. I’m so full of crap I don’t have that problem and if I can’t get inspired I dust off an old original piece of music I haven’t posted here yet and the world is enriched. I’m loving this crap. Lemme know if you have, like, something real to work on or help with or proof.

    • I could maybe send you something sometime. Right now I’m just working on papers, but I did get in a good golem metaphor. Gotta love a good golem metaphor.

      • When you want my take or whatever on something then send it. Right now I’m pouring through someone’s blog giving them my sage advice on what I think is working and not working in their writing. Also I am writing daily entries here and working on musical compositions and performances to post for my adoring fans. (Is there an echo in here?)

        When we have something to do together I’m up for it. I’ll make room. OH! I had a vision the other night about you, your tombstone one day will read, “She made Facebook tolerable”. How could anything have more epic weight than that?

  5. Pretty much everything has more weight than Facebook and Facebook-related topics. If there is anything about Facebook on my tombstone I will resurrect myself just so I can throw myself off a bridge, in penance for having wasted my life.

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