A strange and magical experience

(January 13, 2014)

The creative process is a strange and magical experience. Filled in equal amounts with pleasure and fulfilment or bitterness and regret. The outcome usually ranging from what-you-want to what-you-get. The soul of creativity itself is an intangible and transitory beast. Rather like the ancient necromancer who is there when not wanted but elusive when called upon, it has walked its path for centuries and it comes and goes in its own time.

I know musicians that liken the creative process to ‘taking a shit’, being something you can’t stop, it happens when it happens, and just sometimes it doesn’t. The drivers are many, varied and often unidentifiable. People, places, experiences, incidents – itemise whatever list you want – all or any can provide the spark. Also, it can be less than that, sometimes nothing more than a sound or smell fires the furnace. Try as one might, forcing the creative essence to flow can result in the creation of a hybrid beast, neither of sufficient pedigree to generate pride nor representative of any other output. And in the way of such mongrels, oft-destined to a long life, despite the fact its progenitor wants nothing more to see it fade from existence.

The problem is that creative people are often expected to dwell on the edge of a bottomless vat of originality. These people can surely turn on this muse with the ease of a light switch - ‘You’re supposed to be creative aren’t you? Whatever the route of expression - music, words or images – in my experience it involves slightly more than that. Would it were not but that’s the way it is.

Playing it or writing it …

I’m no musician, although I do love music. That’s the main reason I write about it. Mostly folk, but in that regard I belong to a broad church. Anyone following this vehicle will know that. The people blessed with the ability to create music probably wish the act of creativity was like opening a cupboard, taking out a packet labelled ‘stunning new music’ and pouring forth the contents.

Music takes you places. Lyrics evoke emotions, often powerful and strong. Words can have the same effect. Yet for wordsmiths, as with other ‘creative types’, including musicians, the muse isn’t always prepared to answer the call, however much you may plead. Of course if you have to deliver 600 words to such and such a newspaper by such and such a time, the calibre of content can suffer at the hands of time, Then again, there was not much to worry about then. In those far off copy-deadline driven days so called ‘today’s news’ was tomorrow’s fish and chip wrapping. Words vanished like the snows of spring, they rarely came back to haunt you months later as they languished on some website ready to haunt your future.

The point remains that whether you turn your creativity to lyrics and music, or to crafting words with meaning, both should be laid down with the same care and attention.

Words are like nails …

‘Just bang out a few words.’ Oh for a couple of quid for every time I’ve heard that one. Too many people regard the creative writing process as ‘banging out a few words’, after all they are quite capable of writing letters to their grannies and there’s no real effort in that is there? “So what are you pissing around at? Just get on with it.” In my experience, taking that route usually results in the aforementioned bastard creation or less than perfect prose. The trouble is that there appears to be an increasing number of the ‘madding crowd’ that could no more identify a well-written piece of copy than offer an objective, literate view on a piece of music. And that makes me wonder about music review and criticism.

Reviewing art, design, architecture or music is a subjective pastime. It is down to one person’s view or hearing. What you and I see and hear may be quite different. The same piece may elicit a totally different response. Possibly that’s why ‘sounds like’ reviews perpetuate. For me however, offering a view on someone’s creative work demands far more. It means conveying what you see and hear in terms that might make clear to one or one hundred people what you’re experiencing and expressing it in a concise fashion. It means understanding your opinion may differ from others. That’s why I cannot countenance ‘banging out’ a review.

That’s why the art of reviewing anything demands a certain level of creativity. It also means that spitting out bile and vituperation in an effort to show what a critical critic you are is pointless. Practically anyone can dream up scathing angst ridden words, constructive, descriptive and illustrative take a little more.

And something worth remembering is that words are like nails … you can bang them in and pull them out but they always leave a mark.

More on this topic waiting in the wings …..

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