Knowing when to stop can be difficult. It’s all very well having strategies and techniques for generating creative activity. But, how do you know when it’s time to switch off?
An Endless Task
I spoke previously about separating out your inner ‘creator’ from your ‘craftsperson’. Generally, in my case at least, the former will know when an idea has run its course. However, the polishing and finessing can – if you’re not careful -become an endless task. Or at least, you may easily overlook when it would be a good time to take a break.
To give a recent example, I was working on a new piece of music last week. The initial idea had arrived some time ago whilst tinkering at the piano and I had stored this for later use. Bringing it into the digital realm, I was able to play around with different sounds, rhythms and textures. All of which is a fun process and one in which I tend to become very absorbed.
When Enough is Enough
The hard part is to know when enough extra layers and sounds are enough. Similarly, finding new sections to complement the original seed idea can be challenging. These need to be consistent in tone and style, yet provide enough contrast to make for an interesting whole. Plus, of course, you are always looking for a satisfying beginning, middle and end to any creative project.
Working digitally has its advantages and disadvantages, as we have discussed. The upside is that anything is possible. The downside is – you’ve guessed it – anything is possible. Even once parameters have been set, a structure has been established and a solid framework built, there is still scope to get lost amid all that possibility.
A Kind of Madness
For me, a kind of madness seems to set in. I reach a state in which I can’t leave the thing alone. I am constantly drawn back to see what would happen if I cut this, tweaked that or rewrote the other. And this is the point at which there is only one solution. Just walk away.
In the cold light of a new day, everything invariably becomes much clearer. So, if you find yourself in this situation – whether composing, painting, dancing or any other creative activity – try to recognise the fact that it’s OK to leave. The thing won’t disappear, just because you have left it for a few hours. It will almost certainly reveal what excited you about it in the first place, when you return at a later time.
Time to Leave
In the meantime, it’s a great idea to physically remove yourself form the situation. If your project is computer-based, switch off and leave the room. If it’s studio work, go outside. In fact, going out into the open is never a bad thing to do. Fresh air, wide horizons and even the change in temperature can be instantly restorative.
So, if you are stuck on something at this moment, you have my permission. Take a break. Now. Put the kettle on; go for a walk; have a lie down – whatever works for you. Then feel the difference when you come back, refreshed.