There’s the pie in the sky and there’s the one that’s on TV

Young woman listening to music and looking at CDs in a music shop
Young woman listening to music and looking at CDs in a music shop
Photo by Wellington Cunha from Pexels

Your inner radio

The music business is really weird. It’s bound to the notion that you need to produce something completely original and get famous for it. It’s as if the creator needs to be blessed by some muse from another world who gave them the keys for achieving “success.” Inspiration falls from the sky (it’s divine) and if the creator is fortunate enough to catch it, alchemy begins. In Jean Cocteau’s film Orpheé (1950), Orpheus’ muse feeds him poetry only when he listens to the radio. It’s the secret to his originality and stamina as a poet. He can decode messages only meant for him by tuning into his muse. It’s a radical idea in that the radio (a receiver by design) becomes a transmitter and a conduit for the muse to speak to us mortals. …


Expanding your range of listening

Vinyl disc on top shelf with record collection
Vinyl disc on top shelf with record collection
Photo: Alina Vilchenko | Pexels

The new frontier

Before the pandemic, I made a point to catch at least three live indie music acts a month. Much of the time, I was not too familiar with the bands I was going to hear. It’s an experiment of sorts to give myself the opportunity of a direct experience without any mediation. A friend of mine became quite critical of me because he could not understand how I could go to a show without even knowing what I was getting into. How could I listen to two divergent genres of music within the same week? He needed time to hear the latest album, internalize the songs, and let it all sink in. The live show was a way for him to recapture those experiences and build new bonds with the group, as a fan. I do this as well, and as I suspect, you do, too. Seeing your favorite group play live is probably the most rewarding way to connect with them. However, if this is your only way into music, then you are keeping yourself from discovering new musical frontiers. …


Copying your idols is a great way to learn new techniques. However, your creative and musical development should not end there.

Copying your idols is a great way to learn new techniques.
Copying your idols is a great way to learn new techniques.

The ‘Hammer’ of the Blues Gods

Studying musical cultures from around the world (or even from our own backyard) is a voyage of discovery. It activates our curiosity and challenges our notion of what defines music. We become more receptive to new ways of hearing and, in turn, we respond by setting out to learn this new music. Most of the time, we do this by imitating our idols. This could be, for example, learning a guitar solo note-by-note. Unfortunately, this approach can also quickly lead to a very bad and common habit; one that I like to call the “Blues Hammer Syndrome.” …


As an anti-artist, you employ innovative thinking by stepping off the well-worn path. Venturing in new directions inspires re
As an anti-artist, you employ innovative thinking by stepping off the well-worn path. Venturing in new directions inspires re
Illustration: John Merigliano

Anti-Artist Rebel

Are your songs starting to sound the same? Do you find yourself covering similar ground, reinforcing old tactics in your creative process? We’re habitual creatures. It feels safe to tread on familiar ground. I’ve often thought of going to the same vacation spot every year. Although repeat visits could deepen my understanding of this place, I wonder if it would all become too familiar. How long before the sense of adventure and mystery is lost? If you’d like to develop your creative work, it helps to get to a place of excitement and danger again. …


Confronting Writer’s Block Head On

Writer’s block can be difficult to navigate.
Writer’s block can be difficult to navigate.
Illustration: John Merigliano

The Monster in a Box

Stagnation is an annoying obstacle that keeps you from getting your work done. This is also known as writer’s block. Writer’s block can occur at any point in your project. Initially, you might begin with a clear idea of what you want to do. The problem is, you can’t bring yourself to actually do it. On the other hand, the ideas come rolling out, fast and furious. You turn the corner then stop dead in your tracks. In another scenario, you are so attached, you don’t want your project to end. It becomes, as Spalding Gray has said, a “monster in a box.” …


The blue forest is dark and ominous.
The blue forest is dark and ominous.
Creativity is a wild and dangerous thing. Witches know a bit about this and they can help you navigate your way through the danger zone of your work.

Creativity Diver

Creativity can be dangerous. It is fraught with anxiety, peril, isolation, displacement, boredom, dread, pain, and damnation. At the same time, the desire to create things seems to come from a joyful place. It’s the joy we experience when we accomplish the goal of finishing our work. Of course, there is the happiness we experience during the process. Then where’s the danger in undertaking a creative endeavor? Setting out on a creative journey is dangerous in that it’s a lot like exploring the bottom of an ocean.

Be a Witch

Witchcraft is a good metaphor for the creative process; it’s rooted in an ancient and arcane art. So, let’s imagine that you are a witch and you can breath under water; after all, this is an article about creativity. What do you think you would find? There would probably be pollution: garbage and waste of all sorts. What does the bottom of the ocean smell like? Is this a smell you can live with? On the surface, there would be enormous boats passing by: tankers and cruise ships. Drunken tourists toss bottles of beer or martinis at you from the luxury deck (remember, you’re a witch and, alas, after all of these years, you are still being persecuted). Suddenly, the ocean reveals itself as a not-so-friendly place. …

About

John Merigliano

I am a songwriter and composer. I write about music and the creative process. www.johnmerigliano.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store