Process Addendum

One thing I may not have expressed well enough in the last post is just how much of a role random chance, accidents, and gut level queasiness play in composing a piece from scratch.

Sometimes you accidentally hit a bunch notes on the piano and they turn out to be a chord you never would have thought of but works.

Sometimes you type something into the computer wrong or copy it into the wrong measure, and it’s not at all what you had intended but is in fact WAY better.

Sometimes you think you’ve finished work on a passage but it nags at you for weeks and you finally go back and throw the whole thing out and redo it.

John McPhee has a nice passage in his Draft No. 4:

What counts is a finished piece, and how you get there is idiosyncratic. Alternating between handwriting and computer typing almost always moves me along, but that doesn’t mean it will work for you. It just might. I knew an editor who had a lot of contempt for nearly all writers and did his own writing with a quill pen.

Interestingly, I would say that 90% of people are disappointed when I tell them I compose symphonies and sonatas with a computer instead of a quill.