I was fascinated with potions when I was young. I clearly remember sitting in the yard to the side of our house at around 6 years old, carefully mixing together various ingredients in the jug taken from the bathroom. A little of this, a little of that; water, flowers from the garden, shampoo, even mud – anything was fair game. I was a witch and anything could be used to make a spell. Talcum powder in particular always gave a particularly pleasing horrible lumpy effect; the worse it looked and smelt, the better.
I can’t remember what I did with my potions once they were made – the point wasn’t the result; it was the process that mattered.
That playful feeling of experimentation, of mixing things together and seeing what happens, is, I think, something that we should take with us into our adult lives. Whether it be in the kitchen, in art, music or any other creative endeavor, sometimes the process matters more than the result.
The process of experimenting can be rewarding in itself – and most importantly, each time we do it we learn a little. Like cooking without a recipe, we learn that this flavour works with this, but not with that. We learn that adding a little something new can change the nature of the whole dish.
Even if the results are not the focus, sometimes they are a pleasant surprise and you have produced something that you may not have, had you had a specific goal in mind. Sometimes the outcome is average, or even a complete failure, but even then you can take away something from the experience of doing.
And what’s more, that child-like feeling of ‘let’s see what happens if..’ is fun. So why not have a play?
I owe Nicholas Tozier a thank you for his post Burn Your File of Song Ideas and Start Over (I Dare You).
While I don’t advocate burning old song ideas (and if you read it, you’ll know that what Nicholas is suggesting isn’t as extreme as the title suggests), what this post made me do was actually look through my old song ideas.
And what I found was a scrappy collection of bits and pieces that I’d forgotten about, dumped in folders and notebooks and files on my PC.
Mostly I found lots of terrible lyrics which deserve to be binned, but – and it’s a bit of a big but – one or two were little gems that I had merely mislaid amongst the clutter. Yes, they were unfinished and rough in some cases, but with a little work they could become fully fledged songs.
Do nawt throes me out! I are good idea. (Image from Flickr by Harry R)
So, the moral of the story is this: Do keep your old notes and scraps of ideas, but make sure you actually review them from time to time so that you don’t get bogged down in too many unfinished works.
If the idea is awful and should be cast into the doomed depths of the bin, make the call and do it. If it has merit but needs more work, keep hold of it – but don’t let it linger, forgotten and unloved for months or even years.
I haven’t properly cleared out all my song scraps yet, but I’m planning on having a proper clear out and working on the worthy few this weekend. Hopefully, it will be a cleansing and productive process – and I have to say that I’m really looking forward to it, which is great. I’ve been struggling to get excited about songwriting lately and really struggling to get anything finished, so thank you again, Nicholas, for the virtual kick up the bum. I needed it.