Creating can be consuming. Often, there is a gap with which you have to deal. Sometimes, it occurs between what your work is and what you think it should be. Other times, it is between how you evaluate your creation and how others see it. In either case, that space demands to be filled and filling it can empty you.
For the past two weeks, I've been working on about eight minutes of music, roughly three from the middle of the piece and five from the end (there are about six minutes between these segments). Simultaneously working on different sections may seem like an odd approach, but the construction of this piece demands; much like in a Calder mobile, these parts are connected by a thin line and must balance - no matter how different they look or sound.
An example of a Calder mobile from the Tate website.
This type of work is the most exciting for me - and the most draining. Most of the time, it feels like an impossible balancing act, something akin to spinning stacked plates (those plates being local (within the moment) and global (within the piece) musical details, structural harmonic, thematic, and timbral relationships, and spatial distribution). I know when it all finally locks into place - and it WILL - I'll be ecstatic and relieved. At the moment though, I feel perpetually drained, endlessly trying to fill the gulf between what is and what I know should be.
Finding a way to refuel is essential. For this very reason, I keep a file on my desktop with the quote below. Its words are an indispensable catalyst for a kind of alchemical process that turns the aforementioned dearth into a golden drive to keep going.
"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is; nor how valuable it is; nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly of the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."
-Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille
I hope it serves you as well as it does me. Score excerpts are coming soon. Stay tuned.
A photo of Martha Graham in motion. From www.marthagraham.org