Posts tagged #creative process

Introducing... Austin & Min Write A Musical, The Podcast

Artwork by Melissa Nigro

Artwork by Melissa Nigro

I'm proud to announce my latest collaboration! But I don't know yet what it is!

Fellow playwright/composer Austin Zumbro and I are embarking on a new musical theatre project, and we thought it would be fun to capture our creative conversations in a podcast!

So, we hope you enjoy literally listening to two dudes with mics throwing out ideas for an as-yet-unborn musical. We also hope it actually leads to a musical!

Austin & Min Write A Musical, The Podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and here!

Re-Thinking My Work Day

This year, I made the decision to devote myself to playwriting (and composing) full-time. Unbeknownst to me at the time, what accompanied this decision was pressure. I told myself that if I'm going to work full-time, then I need to spend 8 hours a day working on my projects. I thought: "Everyone else is slaving away at least that amount of time working at their jobs, so I must do the same."

But the fact was, I never ended up writing or composing or researching 8 hours a day. Most of the time, my brain would reach creative capacity for the day at around 4 hours of work total. I started to feel guilty, thinking that I was lazy, and turning my vocation into an excuse to goof off. So I pushed harder, and the pressure and guilt only increased to the point where I wasn't sleeping well due to anxiety and stress. Something had to change.

I decided to experiment. I would give myself permission to have 4-hour work days. I blocked out two 2-hour chunks of time (before and after lunch) that would be dedicated to my writing projects. If I felt like working longer, I could. But if I fulfilled the 4 hours, then I would allow myself to be done with work that day.

I started this experiment two weeks ago, and the stress and guilt have gone down considerably. I find that the work I accomplish in those 4 hours is quite productive. And usually, I end up working longer, often working up to 6 hours total. Today, I found this article titled "Why you should work 4 hours a day, according to science" which gives a quick profile on renowned scientists who accomplished much in their field, and yet only worked 4 hours a day. It's a nice confirmation that I may be on the right track here. I'm in the company of people like Charles Darwin! OK, maybe not that exactly, but I'm hopeful that this new 4-hour workday can yield great creative results for me. Let's see how it goes!

UPDATE: A couple days later, I found this article titled "Use the Two-Hour Rule to Make Progress on Your Creative Projects" confirming my plan of splitting my work into two-hour chunks!

When is a musical "done?"

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A question many artists face is "At what point do you know you are done with your work?" When do you put the paintbrush down, hit that print button, finalize the master? For those of us in the performing arts, the occasion of an opening night helps provide a cut-off date. In most cases, it's inappropriate to make considerable changes to a show once it's opened, so that first performance of a run is as good a marker as any to indicate doneness. And sometimes, we need that marker to tell us it's time to stop and let the work live on its own as is. That doesn't guarantee, however, that we will have a strong internal sense that the work is complete.

In fact, I often feel that a show of mine is never done. Or at least, there is always room for my work to be tweaked, re-thought, analyzed (case in point, the newly revised version of The Song of the Nightingale opening at Town Hall Theatre this month). I like to think of it as a question of whether the work is "done enough." This can be just as vague and difficult to pin down, but at least it doesn't imply an ominous finality to the work.

Learning when my work is "done enough" has been a matter of practice and experience. This is the value of readings and workshops. Each time I bring a play or musical to a group of actors to read or sing, I aim for it to be "done enough" for that particular occasion. I try to approach productions the same way. What needs to be "done enough" for opening night? There will always be threads of story or thought that would be interesting to explore. There will always be other decisions that characters can make. There will always be the relative aspects of art that can be debated for years. But, is the musical "done enough" to present in a reading, a workshop, opening night? I have found thinking of the work in this way far more helpful and far less harrowing, because it holds out hope that once closing night hits, I am welcome to re-open that script file on my laptop and begin cracking away at it again.

Posted on September 5, 2017 and filed under Creative, Composition, Musical Theater, Performing Arts, Thought, Writing.

Starting is the hardest part

I was feeling some stress in anticipation of my primary work task this week: revise the piano score for Four Immigrants. The show is getting a developmental reading next week, and I also need to hand off all of the music to my orchestrator. Just before the weekend, I made sure to plan out my week as best as I could so that I had plenty of time to focus on this task. I was gearing up as if this were going to be a challenging and grueling undertaking.

Hello again, Old Friend...

Hello again, Old Friend...

Since starting on Monday, though, I have found that jumping back into the score, while definitely challenging, isn't all that grueling. It's actually fun. For the past two days, I found myself in a focused flow that's engaging and enjoyable. This is often the case. My stress rises before I have to begin a task, but once the task has begun, the work is surprisingly not stressful.

I think planning my schedule ahead of time is a big part of this. The fact that I gave myself the time to focus on the task meant that flow could happen. But there’s something to be said for how I can make a mountain out of a molehill. Sure the molehill is work, and can be difficult. But the molehill is also something I get to create as a writer. The molehill is my craft, my art. It enlivens me.

Posted on April 12, 2017 and filed under Composition, Creative, Musical Theater, Writing.