Creative Inspiration: Music

Even with the help of my outlines and plot boards, every so often I find myself staring down at a blank page:

If that sight isn't terrifying, I don't know what is.

The most intimidating thing about a blank page is that the longer I stare at it, the harder it is to start writing. It starts to feel like writing the wrong word is even worse than writing nothing at all.

If I'm just a little stuck, pushing through and freewriting can help get the words flowing again. If I'm really in a rut, though, I need to switch gears completely. My favorite way to recharge is to put down my pen and head for the piano.

What I love about music is that it's a zero-pressure creative escape for me. At this point in my life, there's no piece to learn for music class, no recital to prepare for, and (thankfully) no audience for the inevitable wrong notes. I'm playing just because it's fun.

The most freeing thing about playing piano is that there is no finished product. If I don't get a musical phrase exactly right, there's nothing to go back and edit later. I just play it again until I'm happy. That's especially satisfying since so much of my creative work is about results. Whether I'm working on a freelance project or a novel, my ultimate goal is to have a finished piece that's ready to send off into the world. With music, my only goal is to relax and enjoy the process, wrong notes and all.

After a little time on the piano, it's easier to go back to writing and stare down that blank page. I might start off with the wrong word. I might even write whole chapters that don't work or a story that goes nowhere. That's okay. If I just keep writing, I know I'll eventually get to a place where everything sounds exactly right. As Dilbert-creator Scott Adams said, "Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep."