Composition & Improvisation: Creativity

Music is not finished. It is a living, breathing, world-wide art form that is being invented and re-invented everyday. To that end, here are some insights into the true nature of Creativity

Creativity is…

Optimism. It is the recognition of and commitment to possibilities.

Preparation. Blossoms do not sprout without seeds and seeds do not sprout on barren ground. I must prepare the ground and sow the seeds of creation by mastering basic skills, asking important questions, and exposing myself to news ideas. Such preparation requires discipline and hard work.

Receptivity. The creative process is always a step ahead of my conscious mind and therefore can never yield to my control. My thoughts arrive without my invitation. My best ideas come when I am not trying. They think me, but where do they come from?

Surrender. Ideas do not come by force of will. I cannot control the process. I cannot command myself to create. I can only prepare myself to participate in the process of creation. If I want be creative, I must give up my ego’s need to control everything.

Initiative. Creativity cannot be orchestrated, but neither do I sit idly by and hope for inspiration.  If I want to be creative, I need to immerse myself in a place where my existing habits are of no use, where my existing rules do not apply.

Risk. A life lived at a safe distance from my limits can be comfortable, but never happy. If I want to happy, I need to discover my present limits so that I can transcend them. I must replace the perfectionist tyrant who dreads mistakes with the curious scientist who embraces and cherishes mistakes.

Problem Solving. Solving existing problems is quite satisfying, but discovering new problems can be even more fun!

Collaboration. There is no such think as isolated genius. No one creates in a vacuum.  I can only be a co-creator… with my teachers, my surroundings, my friends, my ancestors, my colleagues, my unique experiences and opportunities. Real creativity can only come from a place of humility that recognizes my rich inheritance and connectedness with others.

Gratitude. When I experience the privilege of giving birth to something new, I see my work not as my creations, but as my humble contributions. I am able to enjoy and share my uniqueness with generosity, not arrogance or self-indulgence.

Happiness. Creativity is a form of happiness. When I create, I feel alive and important.

Inspiration. Creativity is contagious. When I create, I give others a reason to create as well.

Hunger. Creativity is the product of curiosity and hunger, not some special talent bestowed by the Gods. When I am hungry, I seek food. As an artist, I seek food for my soul.

Discontent. The status quo is never acceptable. I can always do better. The world can always be a better place.

Tradition. True artists do not reject the past. They appreciate and build upon the past. This is why it is so important to go to school, literally and figuratively, in order to appreciate and absorb our rich inheritance.

Cross Training. The most successful (in the most profound sense of the word) and creative people tend to well-rounded human beings. Music alone should not consume you day and night. Pursue other interests and enjoy the fruits of becoming a well-rounded person: self-awareness, humility, confidence, openness, receptivity, inclusiveness, and resilience… to name but a few.

Learning by Doing. Creative people do not wait until they know how to do something. Try something and see what happens! I always make more exciting discoveries by doing than by merely thinking.

Confidence. My commitment to the unpredictable process of discovery has the wonderful side effect of building self-confidence each time I stumble upon something new.

Self-Interest. I am driven by a need inside myself to meet a genuine need outside myself, always giving to something bigger than myself.

Celebration. There is no such thing as accomplishment without individual effort, courage, and commitment. Those things are the things that I bring to the table. Those are the things that I am responsible for. I am an important part, but not the only part, I should never let “my” accomplishments go to my head, because it denies the richness of my inheritance.

Innocence. The artistic process is a commitment to doing and seeing new things everywhere I go, to continually shedding my filters and blinders and preconceptions, to see and hear everything with my own eyes and ears.

Commitment. The will to do something is an attitude that is always available to me, even when the outcome is uncertain. The process is fueled by hunger, desire, love. The commitment is always to something bigger than myself.

DisciplineDiscipline requires two rare virtues: The honesty to admits one’s weaknesses and the the willingness to work relentlessly in order to turn those weaknesses into strengths.

Patience. The fruit of my labor will almost never be visible right away. Even though I cannot explain how or why, breakthroughs do come. And they come when I least expect it… when I am not even trying. The process will reward my hard work with a gift when I am ready and the time is right.

Redemption. After seemingly endless dry spells, plateaus, and setbacks, all the hard work is redeemed in a flash of insight, making all the frustrations worthwhile. But this release is only temporary. It won’t be long before I am hungry once again and the cycle continues.

Wholeness. I cannot leave any part of me — body, mind, & spirit — out of the creative process. I cannot leave any part of my surroundings out of the process. I cannot leave any part of others out of the process. Everyone and everything is my teacher.

Humility. I cannot be happy if I attach my ego to outcomes. When I try to give birth to that grand creation, my masterpiece that will show the world how wonderful I am, I fail miserably.  Inauthentic or dishonorable goals stifle the entire process of creation.

Integrity. Is what I am doing necessary? Is it congruent with my core values?

Authenticity. The only way to create something original is to be myself.

Curiosity. I have only been creative when I have asked questions.

Perseverance. Quitting is not an option. When I get stuck (and I will), there is only one surefire antidote. I need to do something. Sometimes anything will do, including to just stop trying so hard.

Doubt. Am I worthy of invention or is that just for those with more talent or money or free time or credentials than me? When I ask myself: Am I ready? I fail to see it all as a process. I am not a thing. I am a process! I am alive! I must remind myself of that a thousand times or more until I embrace all its potential.

Simplicity. The methods of any creative endeavor are really quite ordinary: work & play.

Work. We create by doing and learn as we go. The biggest reason that people are “not creative” is that they believe the myth that inspiration is only bestowed upon a lucky few. The truth is that work precedes and breeds inspiration.

Play. I have only been creative when I have not been afraid to play. Play is seeing where my unique experiences and preparation, in collaboration with my environment.  Accidental discoveries are inevitable.

Abandon. When the process is right, work and play become one and I forget that I am there. I have no sense of my self as separate from the process, no worry, no self-consciousness, no trying, no hang-ups on the quality of the outcome.

The Meaning of Life. We are all invited to create. Every life, well-lived, is an act of creation. As such, creativity is a basic human need…. that is more than a luxury. Creativity, in service to honorable goals, is a deep responsibility.

*** Does anyone have any others to share? ***

About Frank J Peter

A uniquely burdened and blessed citizen of the world thinking and acting out loud!
This entry was posted in Composition, Improvisation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Composition & Improvisation: Creativity

  1. Mun Haerin says:

    Out of all the items on this long list, I find that ‘play’ is the most important ingredient for me. I need to feel like a curious child, otherwise I’m going to churn out melodies that sound like they were assembled in a factory.

    ‘True artists do not reject the past. They appreciate and build upon the past.’

    How true! I love this, especially since I like both classical and modern orchestral music. Film composers build on and borrow from the great musicians of the past. As Newton said, we all benefit from standing on the shoulders of (deceased) giants!

    Liked by 1 person

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