A couple weeks ago, I posted about The Cult of Done. I didn't like it. I said that it undermined the value of actually doing anything, reducing creative work to the art of getting better at checking off little boxes.
What I hadn't considered was that it wasn't the ideas that were wrong, it was just what they're about. The Cult of Done is terrible for actually making anything valuable. But it's great for practice.
As you may know, I have trouble finishing songs. In my long and illustrious career, I've finished no more than a dozen. There's just too much to fit together, too much to get right. I always get hung up on details, and the song I'm working on gets pushed to the back burner.
I thought a Song-a-Week project (a la Jonathan Coulton) was the perfect solution. If I had to write a song every week, I figured, I would eventually just start pumping them out, without worrying as much about how things fit together, and how well each line works.
So I tried it. I spent the first two and a half weeks letting one song grow too big for its britches, and the next few days wallowing in defeat.
Then I remembered how practice works. Too often, we think that practice just means doing something over and over again until you get it right. But that misses the point.
Practice is how you load consciously directed behaviors into your unconscious, so you don't have to think about them anymore.
This is how we learn everything, from walking to talking to playing instruments to rules to social interaction. By far, the easiest way to do it is one thing at a time. You start out consciously doing something simple - left foot, right foot, ok left foot again - and when you've done it often enough, it starts doing itself. Only then can you level up. You can take that action itself for granted, and put something else on top of it. Climb stairs. Run. Dance. After enough time, these things become second nature as well, and you can build more new structures.
The Cult of Done is a great way to do it. It preaches continued unmitigated action. Never edit; just do, and learn from your mistakes. I think that's the perfect way to practice. Do something without judgment. Look at it and think about how to do the next thing better. Repeat.
Back to me. It turn out the problem with trying to write a song a week was that I don't know how to write songs! Each song I've written has been like starting all over again, a process of discovery that eventually leads to this unique and beautiful, slow-boiled creation. There's no way to practice all that at once; there's just too much going on.
So here's the new plan. I'm stepping back to the nuts and bolts of the thing, and upping the ante. Starting two days ago, I'm writing a verse and a chorus every day. Once that starts getting easy, I'll add a second verse. Etc, etc. Every day, I'll be loading these rules - how the lines fit together, how the little bits and pieces and chords interact - into my unconscious and letting it get comfortable with them. Teaching my brain how songwriting works, word by word, line by line, so I can run without having to worry about which foot goes first.
So far, subjects have come pretty easily. But I'm only on Day 3. Tell me; what do you think I should write about?