This last aspect of space I want to tackle in this series is at once the most important and the most difficult to write.
Once space in the schedule is made, and the physical space for writing is found, there is still a major hurdle to overcome in order to get to work. This is the intangible and ever-changing psychological space needed in order to create. One entry definitely won’t cover it. In fact, this only touches on the main reason I wanted to create this blog in the first place. Exploring the process, the psychological space of writing and learning through self-observation as I go along is one of my major goals here. That said, let’s jump in a little.
The psychological space necessary for creative work is also called mindset, mood, or “the zone,” but I prefer the slang of headspace, because it’s actual meaning refers to the space between something in a container and its seal, i.e. that little bit of air in the jar between your favorite jam and the lid. For me, being in the right headspace to work is the difference between the concept of a song and it being completed in a way that satisfies me.
Every writer’s productive headspace will be a little different. One of the first things I need is privacy. This serves multiple purposes for me.
First of all, the ‘process’ of a song is not a pretty thing, and no one should have to be exposed to the very first draft of any of my songs, ever. There are lots of stumbles, extremely silly lyrics, and great potential for cursing. It’s best that I am completely alone for that experience. Believe me, it’s for your own good.
Secondly, privacy allows me the freedom to play, to makeup the silly lyrics when I can’t think of one that fits right off, to be terrible. It basically gives me permission to have a really crap first draft without worrying about what anyone else thinks about it. This is a huge deal. Feeling that I have the permission to be awful immediately relieves any pressure to be brilliant in the first round. The ultimately important part of this is that it removes the power from my Internal Editor. An editor is a lovely thing to have when you are at the point of refining and perfecting a piece, but when you’re just getting started, the Internal Editor (let’s call mine Steve) does nothing except tell you NOT to create.
“That idea has been done before.”
“That is stupid.”
“Don’t write that, it’s idiotic, and no one will get that reference.”
Steve clogs up valuable headspace with all that negative chatter, so the only solution is to find a way to tie him up to a chair and stuff him in a closet of your subconscious until he can make himself useful. When other people are around, Steve flat out refuses to go to his closet.
“I bet they can hear you in the other room. They heard you just f*ck up that chord royally. Right now they are wondering how you can even call yourself a songwriter with a trite line like that. You should be glad they ever come to your shows. They probably just do it out of pity.” and so on and so forth. Having privacy gives Steve one less thing to pick on, and makes it much easier for me to get him out of my way.
My other needs all go together. The first is relaxation. Clearing the schedule helps with that, but so does clearing my thoughts of anything that’s bugging me. I often make tea or coffee before settling down to write. The ritual of it is soothing and so is the warm cup. It helps me get a handle on my intentions. (One of the main reasons I choose Octane for my editing and blogging sessions is that they serve a nice variety of loose leaf teas by the potful!) Some songwriters write much better when they are experiencing emotional turmoil or some sort of extreme emotion, but this is not so with me. I need focus, and focus only comes with relaxation and intention.
Once I’ve got all those things going on at once, the writing seems to be a lot more effortless. This is not to say I don’t sometimes get stuck and stop for awhile, or that I always come out with something I love. It just makes it easier for me to fall back into a project at will instead of “waiting for inspiration to strike.” Inspiration is Out There at any given time, but having privacy, permission to be awful, relaxation, focus, and intent make it possible for me to tap into the right headspace.
Question for my Readers:
Where’s your head at? I’d love to hear how some of you prepare psychologically for a writing session!