Ryan A'd me something
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I love deadlines; they’re the worst.
It’s hard to make an opus on a time crunch, but it’s also easy to overcook something for a year when it was better six months ago.
So, I think the best answer I can come up with is: both. Sorry. Here, I’ll elaborate…
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The case AGAINST deadlines…
It took me a year to know for certain that Mouthpiece was finished. I’m typically a slow songwriter. I mull things over. I sing alternate melodies in the shower. I explore internal rhymes or extra alliteration for a verse while I’m driving.
Jason Isbell once tweeted “Songwriting is like attempting to solve the NYT crossword during a therapy session.” - he’s right, and quite often, puzzles take time to solve.
One of the most vital tools in the toolkit is perspective, and perspective requires hindsight. I’ll get excited about a lyric, and then decide a week later that it’s awful, or that it could be great if it was tweaked ever so slightly.
I believe that everything is part of the process. The procrastination. Being too busy to finish something. That art arrives when and how it’s supposed to. And that you often cannot rush the muse.
The case FOR deadlines…
Of course, having infinite options can be paralyzing, and when it comes to any creative endeavour, having a box in which to operate is often handy.
Deadlines are a box. They force us to make decisions - to choose one route or another. Often, it’s not about making the right choice, but about making any choice at all. Hopefully, you arrive in a place where you can look back with more gut-level certainty, and then make the right choice.
When I was young, I scoffed at the idea of “co-writing”. Writers in a writing room in Nashville or LA, conjuring hits. It felt like a superficial lane of the industry. Pop music. I thought real artists wrote in a vacuum.
But as I’ve aged, I’ve really embraced being around other creative people when writing. They find avenues and alleyways you may not have found, and it can really speed up the process. It can take me weeks (or years) to finish a song on my own, but I’ve written great songs with co-writers in a matter of hours because that’s all the time we had with each other. And sometimes there’s a flurry of text messages over the following weeks whereby you continue to edit and whittle the song into form.
Also, life is just busy, and having a block of hours in my calendar can really help me focus.
I also believe that creativity is like a sponge, and if you don’t ring it out now and then, it gets soggy and moldy. Vice Versa, if it sits dry for too long, there’s nothing in it to give. You have to fill the coffers and empty them on the regular. Hone your creative mind to always allow input while generating output. The cosmic creative lung needs to expand and contract or you’ll kick the bucket.