Play with Music: How to Eliminate the Question – What Should I Write Next?


Written by Randy Klein

26 July 2018

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Randy Klein is a composer, pianist, author, educator, President of Jazzheads (a New York City based jazz label), winner of 2 Gold Records with the R&B legend Millie Jackson, 4 Emmys, and a bunch of other accolades, multiple recordings, songs and productions. You can find out more about him here.

What should I write next?

I have no idea what you should write next! That’s up to you and your musical imagination. But, I may be able to give you some food for thought to help you organize the process so that you can rid yourself of this question for good.

First and foremost: Write Every Day to Keep Your Pencil Sharp. There is great truth to this, and I would add to it by saying: Be disciplined about it! By writing every day, you are keeping your creative mechanism that lives deep inside of you in top shape. If you are feeling uninspired, write anyway. If you are resisting going to the place inside of you where creativity comes from. Go there! If you have a wandering attention span, buy an egg timer. What? Writing within an assigned time period helps discipline your writing mechanism.

Writing with an Egg Timer Instructions:

Set egg timer for 5 minutes. Write for 5 minutes. Then get up and do something else. Repeat this as many times a day as you can. When you are comfortable with a 5-minute time slot, up it to 10 minutes, and so on. You will know when you have found your perfect writing time.

I set my egg timer for 25 minutes. I slowly worked my way up from 5 minutes (truth) and feel very comfortable now with the 25 minute time frame. When the ‘flow is flowing’, the 25s multiply rapidly. So, repeat after me: An egg timer is the key to my next piece of music! An egg timer is the key to my next piece of music! An egg timer is the key to my next piece of music!

And if you are scared that you might not like this creative space, I assure you there is nothing to be afraid of. Composing/creating is a fun, peaceful and joyous endeavor. So, no more excuses! Get over it! There is no reason why you shouldn’t be writing every day. The more you write, the more you will want to write! And…you will be answering the question, ‘What do I write next?’ Because every day the ‘What’s next?’ is already being written.

Observations about writing every day:

Every writing day is different. Some days the output will flow like a river in springtime, and other times you will be thinking I can’t lasso even one thought. But, because of your discipline to writing every day, your writing mechanism will have its daily workout. I think you will also notice that your writing output is thriving. 

Some days you will think that what you wrote is terrible. Other days you will love every note and idea. (I prefer the latter for all the obvious reasons.) 

Some days you will want to write something new, and other days you will want to revise something that is already in process. It is always amusing to me when I go back to a musical idea that I thought was terrible on the day I wrote it, and then by revising it, it becomes my favorite new piece. Again, you are writing every day so the idea of ‘What do I write next?’ becomes a bit of a moot point.

Some days you will start with a blank slate, inventing something from nothing and other days you will be whittling down a larger piece into a small manageable gem or adding to a germ of an idea to give it a shape. (again, inventing something from nothing)

Some days you will have to create a work with a specific assignment or commercial purpose in mind and other days you will simply let it ‘flow’. (which is my personal favorite)

Closing thoughts:

By writing every day, your writing and editing skills will improve rapidly. Guaranteed!

I get up every morning, brew the coffee and write. FYI: I am obsessed with the idea of ‘What do I have to write next?’ It keeps me focused on the future and not the past. It allows me to always have my mind engaged in the creative process. I never feel as if it is a chore or work. I honestly look forward to it with great enthusiasm. Are you kidding? You’ve been given the gift to create beautiful music! How cool is that? It’s play and it’s fun!

So, what are you going to write next? The answer is: I don’t know, but I’ll have it for you in the morning!

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