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“Never Make Predictions, Especially About The Future”

A few weekends ago I had a plan to write on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, as I often do.

On that Sunday I had one of the most fluid writing days I’ve had in a long time. Stuck places came unstuck. Stretches that seemed like deserts barren of ideas became fruitful and multiplied. I was in the groove, the flow. I made a lot of progress.

But the day before, Saturday… that was different. On Saturday I had nothin’. Stumped. I plowed ahead dutifully for several hours until the poverty of my imagination so exhausted me that I finally quit early for the day… and I despaired of finding a way to even approach any of this material when I got up the next day – Sunday… the day where, it turned out, creativity and I were best buddies (see above).

I drew two thoughts from this experience (it’s far from the first time I’ve had it). One is that I can’t make predictions about my productivity based on a limited sample – a day, a week, a month… And this goes for good days too – just because I had a great day on that Sunday doesn’t predict anything. I just don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

The deeper lesson for me, though, was that I had to show up on the ‘bad’ day for the ‘good’ day to happen. I don’t think I could’ve had one without the other. I was tilling the hard soil one day… the next, something grew.

My frustration and my disappointment in myself was what Saturday was about. As hopeless as it felt, I tried again on Sunday. And on Sunday the sun was shining, the birds were chirping, the babies were laughing. Eventually the sun comes out.

It would be nice if I knew in advance which would be the easy days… Couldn’t I just show up for those and, on the hard days, go to the movies or something? Well… no. I don’t get to know in advance how productive my work will be on a particular day (or week, etc…). I just get to choose to show up or not. And the more I show up, the more ‘good’ days I have.

Let me know your thoughts in the Comments section below:

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20 responses to ““Never Make Predictions, Especially About The Future””

  • Great post Tony, thanks so much for your insight and care in sharing your feelings w us in the songwriting community.

  • Michael Paumgardhen

    I feel similar high & low tides within my own work as well. Working each day builds a better song , lyric or story.

  • Hi Tony, so you need to write a song that includes your own words: the poverty of my imagination … THAT’s good! Now get to it. And yes, I so agree about high and low days. “Show up, show up, show up, & after a while, the muse shows up, too.” -Isabelle Allende Best to you and yours for a peaceful season! xx Sue

  • Hey Tony,

    I’d go further than you. I wouldn’t call that Saturday unproductive even though it may have felt that way. I believe that after you quit your unconscious was chewing over the things you wrestled with. By Sunday it had come up with solutions that you were able to reap. It’s exactly because you quit and occupied your conscious mind with other stuff that you freed your unconscious mind to work on your ideas. That’s why it’s important to stick with a bad day as long as you can without making yourself crazy.

    Have a great holiday,

    Seth

  • Great stuff Tony, Thanks…. I love hearing about yours & others “songwriting process”. Helps me to not feel alone and uniquely lame when the muse is nowhere to be seen & heard.
    PAX
    AM

  • Charity

    i have a little philosophy about writing: the muse is always present and is the creative/spiritual soup that surrounds us in this universe. The same inspiration that shows up for Springsteen or Sting et al is available to all of us. It’s just a matter of showing up, being open, setting aside our judgment and trusting. Oh, and having fun! We just need to slow down long enough to grab her.

  • Sophia

    Thanks for this Tony! I can easily become discouraged and need reminding regularly. Someone once said the recipe for success at relationships was was 80% effort for 20% pleasure. I remember being incredulous upon hearing that but on hindesight it seems to be the formula for success at anything worthwhile… Glenn Gould once said “years and years of hard work for a few moments of grace”. That about sums it up.

  • Paul Jenkins

    This is so true, Not just about song writing, but about every endeavor of life. Art, Business, Relationships, Spirituality… Everything requires “plowing through” the hard times for those Gems that make it all worth it. And you are correct, You never will have the good days if you don’t face the bad days. I heard a preacher once say, “If you ever meet anyone who was an “Overnight Success” you can be sure it was a Very Long Night.”

  • Joyce Rogers

    Great post, Tony. Happy Holidays.

  • Dina

    Well said! An important insight and positive conclusion. Thanks.

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