Nurturing a Creative Burst

Nurturing a Creative Burst

It’s happened to you before: all of the sudden, you feel the urge to create.  Whether it’s a blog post, a song, a piece of art, or otherwise, the creative juices have hit you full force.  So how do you keep the momentum going until you have a finished product to share with the world?

I experienced a creative burst just last week.  I was planning a new session of the early childhood music class I lead at my church, when for some reason it seemed like a good idea to write 9 new songs for it.  No matter that it was five days away, and I was busy enough as it was.

The single most important step I took to maximize that burst of creativity was to write down my end goal immediately. That way, even when the jolt of inspiration started to wane, I’d have a plan in front of me.

So even though the songs weren’t written yet, I came up with titles and included them in the song packet I was putting together.  Then I wrote the lyrics to the songs, which were included in the packet as well.  Then I made copies of those packets, so that there was no going back.  I was fully committed to writing those 9 new songs, whether I liked it or not!

Luckily, I was still feeling inspired when it came time to sit down and write the melodies and chords the next day.  And the next day, when I spent hours recording instrumental tracks; and even at 11 pm that night, as I finished up recording vocals.  Sure, I wasn’t as fired up at that point as I’d originally been, but I was looking forward to burning those completed CDs and experiencing that feeling of pride over my accomplishment.

And that’s the difference between letting a dose of inspiration take you where the wind blows and using it to map out a course of action.  Because I took the time to do that first thing, I ended up with 9 new songs (which were a hit, by the way) for my class as well as 9 potential new blog post topics.  Long live the creative burst!

Messy Desk Confessions

Recently, a reader wrote to me the following:

“I don’t know if you’d want to blog about your desktop but I’d like to know…is your desk always so ordered?  I have a feeling you have an ability to clear the desktop daily. I am consistently in the midst of so many huge projects with my classes, well, I see the top of my desk 3 times a year.  One of my goals this year is to see my desktop more than 3 times a year.  Maybe you could show us what your desk looks like when you are REALLY in the swing of things.”

It’s confession time.  I always have to organize my desk for photos, because it definitely does NOT look this neat on a regular basis.

In the picture above, I was in the midst of filling out student applications for my local federation of music clubs’  upcoming Junior Festival.  This was right after I received the email, so it was the perfect opportunity to capture the evidence of my cluttered desktop.

So even though I’m guilty of the occasional messy desk, I’ve become very good at making it appear neat and tidy.  I really have no choice, considering there are students and parents in and out of my office/studio on a daily basis.  But what they don’t notice is my inbox tray stuffed to the gills, the papers concealed under a music book, and the sticky notes tucked into a drawer.

Despite all of these confessions, I do have some tips that help keep the visible clutter to a minimum and maintain my sanity.

  1. I keep filing boxes stacked right underneath my desk, so that I can quickly file away invoices, pay stubs, and important documents that don’t require further action.
  2. I make it a habit to empty my inbox tray (and then empty the trash can) every Sunday so that Monday is a clean slate.
  3. Almost everything has a place or a dedicated folder.  I only allow myself one tiny junk drawer for things that I can’t find a regular use for yet just can’t part with.
  4. I’ve broken all of my former pack-rat habits.  When I moved out of my parents’ house after college, they forced me to throw out the boxes and boxes of schoolwork — dating all the way back to 6th grade — that I absolutely did not need.  It was hard at the time, but I’ve never looked back.
  5. I keep a scanner on my desk so that I can digitize anything I think I might need later but don’t want taking up valuable space.

And just in case you thought perhaps the picture up top was staged for this blog post, here’s another one (taken back in the day, when I still had my old Macbook and warhorse printer) to prove my occasional desk messiness.

What about you?  Are you one of those people who always has a perfectly tidy workspace?  If so, please add your tips in the comments.  And if you’re a total slob, tell us about that too so we can all feel better about ourselves.  (Just kidding, sort of.)

Adventures in Songwriting: Collaboration

Lennon McCartney Songwriting

Lerner & Loewe.  Rodgers & Hammerstein.  Kander & Ebb.  Lennon & McCartney.  Simon & Garfunkel.  All famous songwriting duos whose names just belong together, right?

To be honest, I’ve never collaborated with another songwriter when it comes to music therapy/children’s songs.  (Unless you count therapeutic songwriting with students or piggyback songs, that is!)  I’ve definitely used input from custom song clients, teachers, parents and others, but the actual process of creating the song is an independent one.

However, I do have a songwriting partner for other kinds of music.  My mom and I have written wedding songs, choral Christmas pieces, songs for nonprofit organizations, and more over the last five years or so.  We both bring our own strengths to each project, and the finished product reflects a nice mix of our styles.  Goulet & Rambach has a nice ring to it :)

I’d love to collaborate with other music therapists at some point for a breath of fresh air and new inspiration.  Any music therapy songwriting duos out there we should know about?  Maybe you’re half of one — if so, let me know!

Adventures in Songwriting: My Process

My Songwriting Process

Want to read Part 2 of my “Adventures in Songwriting” series?  Well then you’ll have to scoot on over to Wade Richards’ blog, Time for Music!  There you can read all about the process I use to write my songs — and check out all of Wade’s great articles and music therapy resources.

So what are you still doing here?  Go read Adventures in Songwriting: My Process and feel free to share the process that works best for you.  Oh, and if you missed Part 1, you can find it here.

Adventures in Songwriting: The Beginning

Adventures in Music Therapy Songwriting

When people find out that I write my own music therapy songs, they usually have lots of questions.  How did you start writing songs?  Is it hard?  Do you prefer using your own songs to others’ songs?

These questions came up again last week during a presentation for speech & language pathologists, and I made a note right then and there to share my thoughts here on the blog.  So here it is: my “Adventures in Songwriting” series, starting at the very beginning (a very good place to start, if you ask Julie Andrews).

When I started my first practicum as a new music therapy graduate student, the first place I went for help was the internet.  I’d never written a song in my life, and had no idea where to start.  I was to work with seniors in a nursing home, so I typed “music therapy hello songs for seniors” into Google.  Can you guess how many results that yielded?  Yep…not many.

That was the moment I realized I was going to have to start writing my own songs.  I started with a simple hello song, which ended up taking less time than learning an existing song would have.  It wasn’t great, but I used it throughout that entire first practicum.  Everyone seemed to enjoy it, and what amazed me most was that by the end of the semester, the whole room was singing along.  To a song I wrote.  It was a pretty cool feeling.

Even with a few successful songwriting experiences under my belt, I still didn’t feel 100% confident as a songwriter.  I continued to rely on Google to lead me to songs I could use in music therapy practicum sessions.  But the more specific the goals and objectives for my clients, the harder it was to find the right song that fit each unique situation.

It wasn’t until beginning my internship that I began to feel comfortable sharing my songs with people other than my clients.  The positive feedback I received from my supervisors definitely helped, as did the fact that my clients were making progress because of the songs I was writing just for their needs.  Not to mention that the more I wrote, the easier it got.  Isn’t that the case with so many things in life?

In my next installment of this series, I’ll talk about the actual process I use to write my songs.  In the meantime, if you have any songwriting questions you’d like for me to answer, please leave them in the comments!

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