Are you having trouble finishing your compositions? Do you get a few bars in, and then an hour later realize you haven’t really accomplished anything? You may have a problem. You may be suffering from… cant-get-away-itis. Sounds like
The Two Week Phrase
Seriously though, there is something about being able to escape that is important for composing. I think this is where composing may truly diverge from other music making activities. It is not a performance art. It is probably closer to a thesis in fact. I am sure some people don’t have a problem with others staring over their shoulder while composing, but when it happens to me… well let’s just say I can’t perform.
When I sit down to compose, for some reason, the whole world seems to become louder and more needy. The dog’s want food all of the sudden, the phone starts to ring, the dishwasher starts washing, the neighbors decide to have a pool party… the list goes on. Recently, I have been working to complete my first piano sonata, which has been taking longer than I’d hoped. The main reason for this, is due to temporarily moving my family into my parents house.
My family + Parents = 4 Adults, a 2 year old, 2 dogs, a cat, and a bunch of more things in a relatively small house
This situation is only temporary… but temporary can last a pretty long time.
By setting up a temporary composing studio in the garage, I thought I had it covered. But for some reason, every time I go to compose, about 10 minutes later, my mom comes in with my son. They both sit down in there and… just listen.
Thats it. They just listen.
But sometimes it seems, silence can be much louder than you’d think. Especially when you know that silence is accompanied by staring and listening intently. I am not going to say they are judging… but…
How to Regain Your Composing Sanctuary
What to do? I could put a lock on both sides of the garage. I could take a laptop and midi keyboard and go to the park (I may actually try that). Neither of those seem like a great option though.
No. My answer is far simpler, and I think will have the impact I am looking for. I am going to tell them, when I am composing, I am out of the loop.
I am a composer, and I must be treated as if it is my job.
Laying it Out
The key to telling them, you need silence is to frame it around yourself. Don’t say:
You always come in and bother me…
If you would just give me some quiet time…
Instead say something like this:
I love that you come to listen to me, but I just have problems focusing when others are watching me compose.
Hopefully they understand. Besides, it’s not like you are running off to some shed in the mountains for a month, you are just asking for maybe an hour or two alone to concentrate.
A Personal Sanctuary Checklist
After making sure the main culprits for distraction are taken care of, it’s time to take care of some of the other ones. I recommend figuring out and then writing down, everything that you think can interrupt you, and then taking steps to avoid those interruptions. Here is my list.
- Family asked not to bother you for anything other than emergencies.
- Dog’s fed.
- Cell phone off (or at least on the other side of the house). (Funny enough, while I was writing this, my cell phone sent me a message that someone followed me on twitter… I am grateful, but I should have turned it off).
- Air temperature comfortable.
- All necessary composing supplies pre-stationed (This is super important, because if you have to keep coming back out to the rest of the house, they will forget you are composing… and the next thing you know, you are hanging pictures and redoing the bathroom… yes I repainted my parents bathroom this last weekend).
- Noise abated. This can be tough. I am thinking seriously about getting the Bose Quiet Comfort Headphones.
- Other sheet music removed from eyesight. It is so easy to start doodling and practicing other music, that I find it important to remove those, because they are just distractions.
I am sure other things will be added as time goes on.