A Recipe For Undeniable Creative Success

Time is short and I’ve still got work to do. Rather than curl up in denial under the duvet with Netflix and a bottle of Belvedere, this is how I try to approach a challenging amount of creative work, such as the epic beast that is Flood.

Accept it. Don’t fight it. It’s going to get done. Have faith in yourself. If you don’t, who will?

Prioritise. Cut out all the chaff. Remove extraneous work and social obligations – anything that can be postponed, do it. What’s the most urgent music to be written? On this project, I had several songs to write for choir, so these were written first so that the performers could get to learning them as quickly as possible.

Schedule. Break all the work up into smaller bitesize chunks. Take a reasonable amount of time to plan your time so that you can…

Concentrate on today only. Worrying about what you have to do tomorrow, the day after, next week is a waste of your energy.

Focus. Turn off email, twitter, let the phone go to voicemail. Go offline. Work hard and jealously guard your time against anything less worth your while. This is important. No-one is going to write this music (or whatever work it is that you do) but you, and no-one else will get blamed when deadlines are missed. Work hard, whilst remembering to…

Communicate. Keep everyone in the loop who needs to be. On this project that meant the director, the writer, the sound designer, the producer, and a number of others at different times and in different ways. Whilst it’s important to get the job done, it’s also important to get the right job done, especially on something as fluid as new theatre. Scripts get re-written, budgets get squeezed, new technologies have their unforeseen quirks. Plans change, and you’ve got to make sure everyone’s on the same page.

Recharge. That amount of music cannot be written and still remain top quality when you’re running on fumes. Factor in at least a day or two every week where you step away from the  mac/piano/manuscript paper and do something else. Anything else. Get your head out of the game. Your subconscious will continue to work on the problem and you’ll find a miraculous pool of ideas are ready for you to dip into when you’re back at work the next day. Trust me on this, it really does work. I work anywhere up to 5+ times faster that morning after a day off. It’s truly bizarre if you’re not used to it. 🙂

To recap…

Accept – Prioritise – Schedule – Concentrate – Focus – Communicate – Recharge

A recipe for undeniable creative success.


This is a retooled post from 2010 when I was working on Anthology with Slung Low for the Liverpool Playhouse. I was far busier back then with work besides composition, including violin teaching and performance. Now I’m solely a composer, the method still holds true – so I thought it was worth another share.