Roll the Dice

My only solution to having good ideas.

This is something I’ve noticed about the creative process. About 2 years ago, I was writing a song that would be called “New Ways”. Sitting in my room with a legal pad, a pen, and my guitar, I struggled to figure out the lyrics for the chorus of the song. I knew what I wanted the song to be about, and I had a very (very) rough outline of a melody in mind, but I could not think of which words to use. I’d jot something down, sing it, it like it, and repeat. Many times I would just sit there staring at the paper, hoping the right words would pop out at me and, at the same time, feeling completely at the mercy of chance. I had no idea where I got my bad ideas, so how could I feel anything but helpless when looking for good ones? Every time I wrote down some lyrics, it felt like rolling dice at a casino, with luck being my only strategy.

I wish I had a better ending to this day, but I didn’t. I sat in my room for hours and came up with what felt like nothing. None of the ideas I had were any good to me, and I just felt worse after writing them down. I put away my guitar, feeling defeated.

Fast forward to the next day.

I’m sitting in my history class, bored as ever. My professor seemed to work diligently at not engaging students, despite how smart I’m sure she is. I’m doodling in my notes, sort of thinking about the song I tried to write the day before, and suddenly…

That’s it!

It was like someone came up to me and handed me an envelope with all the lyrics to my song inside. As I sat in the back of the classroom, I silently sang through the chorus with the new lyrics I thought of just then, and I liked it. That is the story of how I finished that song.


So what did I take away from this? I learned that my good ideas don’t gradually come to me, as if I were downloading them from the internet. They come in a flash. It’s all or nothing. Thinking back, the bad ideas happen the same way. This process also feels completely unplanned, as if you had no control over it. However nerve-racking that is for me to accept, it’s true.

Now, I’m committed to writing music full-time. I try to schedule my days, but I’ve come to realize that it is hard to plan something that is seemingly unplannable. What’s my attempt at solving this problem?

Roll the dice a lot.

I can’t control whether my ideas will be good or bad, or whether I’ll figure out the right words to use for some verse I’m writing, as much as I can’t control whether I’ll roll a 7 on a dice roll.

But I can control how many times per day I roll the dice.

And the saving grace of writing is that you can throw away all your bad ideas, leaving you and your project with just the good ones.

JL

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