Creative Process: Create Lots, then Choose

by Eddie Lewis

Interesting Part of the Creative Process

Here’s a part of the creative process that a lot of people don’t think about. You know how, when you look at the iceberg, only a small part of it rests above the surface? What you see in the work of a highly creative person is like that. You only see a small fraction of that person’s output.

Part of the creative process is the act of filtering through material until you find something that you like. This inevitably requires you to reject a great deal of your own material. It’s true at the macro level, at the micro level and everywhere between the two.

Creative Process is Like Planting Seeds
The creative process is like planting seeds. Not all the seeds you plant will grow to produce fruit. Some will die from weather. Some will be eaten by bugs and animals. You have to plant more than what you expect to grow and harvest.

Micro Level Filtering

Let me use my own composition process as an example of micro level filtering. When I compose a piece of music, I try ideas, many different ideas, until I find something that I like.

Note the wording here. I don’t try ideas until I find one that “people like”. I don’t try until I find the “right” ideas. I am searching for the music that rings true in my own ears.

I always begin with a seed. That seed is almost always comes from what I call an “inspiration”. To me, in the context of my composition process, an “inspiration” is a musical idea that I didn’t try to get. I see these inspirations as gifts from God. When I receive one of these ideas, I quickly write it down for future use.

When I begin a composition, I take one of those inspirations and put it in my score. That’s the first step.

Then I work with it in this trial and error approach. I try an idea… listen to it on the playback… then decide if it is a keeper or if it needs to be modified or even deleted.

I do so much of this kind of create-and-filtering that the total amount of output for any single composition can be as much as twenty times more material than the final composition contains.

I bet you didn’t know that. Lots of people think that true creatives just sit down and write great works. But no, it doesn’t work like that.

The creative process always involves this process of creating more than you need and then selecting the best of your output.

Filtering at the Macro Level

The reason I thought to do a video on this is because I have recorded a LOT of these Behind the Wheel videos. I mentioned in one of the recent videos that I actually recorded them regularly for about a year before I ever posted the first one. And then, in the time since that first video, only about 1/3 of the Behind the Wheel videos I’ve recorded have made it to YouTube.

In this particular example, I had made two videos this week, before I made this one. Which is consistent with the ratio I sited above. About one third of the Behind the Wheel videos make it to my channel.

This is the Create and Choose aspect of the creative process at the macro level. Instead of filtering out individual sections of the complete work, you are filtering out the entire work.

I rarely do macro level filtering with my compositions anymore. I used to do a lot of it. Remember, I’ve written hundreds of original compositions. Many of the first three hundred were not really worth sharing.

Now, something I mentioned in the video is that I never just trash this material. I’ve held on to most of it. I did loose a lot of original compositions from when I was younger and less organized. Things just got lost. Probably about sixty compositions from my first ten years of writing are gone. But since those early days, I have been a lot more organized and the music is being stored.

Same is true with the Behind the Wheel videos. I haven’t deleted any of them.

Same is true for all the other videos as well. I have made at least twice as many videos as what I’ve posted here on YouTube.

That’s macro level filtering!

Eddie Lewis creative process
Would you like to learn how to compose music?

Composition Lessons

If you are interested, I do teach composition lessons. I am not only a trumpet teacher.

My approach to teaching composition is process oriented. I teach you what to do to find what pleases your own ears. I don’t try to make you write music like mine. I’m more interested in teaching you how to spend your time so that your music sounds like YOU.

If you are interested in composition lesson, please feel free to contact us to get started. We would love to teach you how to be part of the creative process.

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