Musical dry spell

I went to college for music composition. When I first started college, I was studying computer science. Two years in, I was spending far more time writing, arranging, and performing music than I was on programming, so I decided it made sense to switch. My time in college was probably my most prolific so far. I dedicated time almost every day to composing choral music and arranging for my a cappella group.

After graduating, I wanted to continue being a composer, but I didn’t see a straightforward path to doing that full-time that appealed to me. So I went back to school for a computer science degree, knowing I could make money with it & hopefully keep composing. That went well & all, but unfortunately I don’t compose nearly as much as I used to. I still do write maybe a piece or two a year, but I spend much less time doing it, and I feel very much out of practice on the whole process.

Photo credit: Mostafa Meraji

I don’t think the problem is having less time to spend on composing. When I was in school, I was more busy than I am now outside of work, but I still made time to compose. Nowadays, when I do write, I find it very difficult to truly get into the necessary creative mindset, and I bounce off of the work easily.

Inspiration’s always elusive, but in order to get any inspiration, you need to dedicate a certain portion of your subconscious mind to working on the music all the time in the background. It seems like I can rarely do that anymore. The work just doesn’t hook me in like it used to.

Around the time I started college again, I got started on a piece I had wanted to write for a really long time. It had taken me a few false starts to get some material I was really happy with, and the text is special to me, so I wanted to make something exceptional. It’s been 4 years since then, and I still haven’t finished the piece, despite repeated efforts to complete it. That’s by far the longest I’ve ever taken to finish a piece.

Sometimes I tell myself if I could finish this piece, I’d be able to open up the floodgates and get back into writing music. I sometimes tell myself that the perfectionism I’m bringing to this one is what’s really holding me back. I tell myself a lot of things, but the piece is still unfinished.

I’ve thought a lot about my dry spell, because in the long term I’m still serious about music being a major part of my life’s work. I don’t think I have a simple and satisfying answer to why I write less than I used to. My life in general is pretty good right now, so maybe it’s alright for me to be relatively less prolific for the time being. All I know is that this is a bridge I must cross eventually if I don’t want to wind up regretting things later on.

Do you struggle with creative output? How do you get around writer’s block? Have you ever had difficulty finishing a piece or project over a long period of time? Let me know your thoughts at my Ctrl-C email: gome ​@ ​