Thursday, April 01, 2004

the bench staying fresh

by J. PhoenixThe Synthesis article is still in the works; it's such a big subject that we're breaking it up into four parts, and The Bench will see each of them released one at a time. It will cover the basics of synthesis, which is much more complicated than the term implies.

This month we'll take a short break and discuss staying fresh. These are my top ten ways to stay fresh and renew inspiration with whatever activity, art form, etc. you are pursuing:

10. Read a Biography Before You Start a New Project
Bonus points if you pick a biography on someone whose work is totally unrelated to your work, but still inspires you. The idea behind this is that if you look at the trials, tribulations, and successes of another who inspires you, what happened in their life may prepare you for something in your own, or may give you a new insight on what you are about to do. And even if it doesn't, at least you'll have learned a bit more about the art you enjoy.

9. Find Another Art form to Work On
Learn how to play guitar, paint watercolors, or swim. Learn how to dance, learn how to rock-climb, learn how to cook a certain complicated dish. The more artistic endeavors you attempt, no matter the results, you will find appreciating the process of the other art form that apply to what is already your forte. It also gives you something to do in the downtimes of inspiration in your other art form, or vice versa. Having two or more art forms allows you to switch back and forth and keep inspiration running more consistently.

8. Take a Day (or Week) Off to Reorganize Your Space
Set aside a day or a week to clean up and clean out your studio. Put those canvases in order, get all those CD's back in their cases, tie up those cables, sort out those papers. Unless you are one of the rare people who actually work better and more efficiently in total chaos, I recommend taking a break when you're in between projects or have some sort of downtime and re-organize your habitat. Some of us actually reconfigure their studio in relation to the project they're working on. One way or another getting everything in order is one of those steps which will make it easier to create quality from the lowest levels up.

7. Start With the Smallest Things
As above so below, from largest to smallest. Remember that if you do the small things very well, it means that the larger things will go the same way, because they've been set up to. Most people get so focused on the bigger elements, their goals or dreams, the larger picture that they forget to put in the detail work to get them there in the first place. Start by doing one small thing perfectly, and then move onto the next. That is how quality is created.

6. Use the Right Tools for the Job
One of the problems that can easily get you into a rut is not having the right tools for the right job, or that the tools you are using are not calibrated properly or they are simply inferior. While it is a poor craftsman that blames his tools, from time to time things break down, get adapted, or weren't being used for the right purpose in the first place. Do not try and paint tiny detail work with a paint brush you use to paint the side of your house. It takes the knowledge and research to know what the right tool actually is sometimes, so look into it.

5. (Keeping No. 6 in Mind) Use What You've Got
A lot of us get easily bogged down in the cycle of "if I only had [insert equipment here] I'd be able to do what I want to". Inevitably, you will end up putting off what you need to while imagining what you could do with something you don't yet have. By sticking to the idea of using whatever you've got, you'll find yourself stretching the boundaries of what your equipment can do. You may learn something about your gear you, and possibly nobody else knew before. Don't get trapped in the pretty catalogs with the new gear every month and ignore what you've already got!

4. Give up and Take A Break
Just stop it! Quit trying for a second. Get out of your chair, away from your headphones, turn off the mixer and the tables or computer and do something else. Clear your mind of whatever's blocking you by completely ignoring the problem and its solution altogether. Don't try to figure it out while you're doing whatever else to get your mind off of it, and don't use your break time to rehash everything you're doing right or wrong. Just stop it. Take a break.

3. The Total Opposite of 4-Stick to It!
Don't give into that temptation to quit and turn on the TV / X-box / VCR / DVD / Internet! Stay focused on the task at hand. Finish what you started, otherwise you're not likely going to finish anything! Throw yourself into it, get your hands dirty, and get it over with. Now! Stop reading this article and get to work!

2. Don't Be Afraid to Start Completely Over
Change is devastating. It means having to learn things over, rebuilding what was destroyed, creating new connections, and generally backtrack until you find yourself where you were before or even farther behind or ahead. But, if it weren't for such experiences, then you'd keep doing the same thing over and over and while you may get better at it, you won't learn as much as if you have to start from scratch. So when your records get sent one way to Taiwan on the trip back home, the sub woofer's magnetics destroyed your hard drive with your samples during the gig, or that freak electrical storm destroys your synth patches, just remember: as you're rebuilding, you're learning better ways to get your results.

1. Do What Makes You Happy
Do it because it makes you happy. There is nothing that says your art has to please anyone, and frequently we allow others' opinions to keep us from doing something new, or outrageous, edgy, or dangerous. The risks that we take are sometimes what ends up making or breaking us. Many times an artist has chosen to boldly go ahead with their ludicrous idea or another and as a result got that record deal, caught a publisher's eye or gotten their script sold.

Take Care, Be Safe, and See You in Front of the Speakers!

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