Making The Most Of Your Ideas (Even The Bad Ones)
In this piece, James Shotwell encourages musical creators to slow down and think about their developmental process, as well as the value of fully exploring ideas to determine their value before writing them off.
Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix
Last year, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler appeared on Joe Rogan’s popular podcast to promote a new documentary about his career outside the iconic rock band. During the conversation, Tyler began to describe the early days of Aerosmith, and how guitarist Joe Perry would sit around at night playing whatever came to his mind on guitar. Tyler recognized the potential for the material and soon purchased a cassette recorder to capture the ideas as they made themselves known.
“That’s where we got some of our biggest songs,” he told Rogan. “But just think about the material we never got on tape. The ideas we never got to explore.”
Think about that for a second. For nearly half a century now, Aerosmith has been considered one of the most significant and most influential groups of all-time, yet the members cannot help thinking about what could have been. There is a fire in their gut that yearns to discover the next song, the next chord progression, the next melody, the next whatever it is that leads them to something new. For Aerosmith, success is secondary to feeling fulfilled creatively, and even decades worth of work cannot quench their creative thirst.
If all of Aerosmith’s accomplishments have been unable to replace their desire to create it is probably safe to assume the same would apply to you. The journey of creativity is not one where the goal is the destination because there is no end. To create is to embark on one adventure after another with little to no idea where things will end up. It’s about taking chances and accepting the outcome, whether good or bad, as something that will not stop you from continuing your work.
With this in mind, take a moment to think about your development process. Are you using a metaphorical tape recorder to capture all your ideas as soon as they come into your head, or are you allowing potentially great thoughts to be lost in the ether of life just as quickly as they recognized? Do you pursue your ideas until they are fully realized, or do you play with them until the next best thing comes along? If so, why?
We live in a time where people feel pressured to create. Even those who love working on new ideas often say they feel rushed to churn out new projects. Taking our time is associated with falling behind, but why? If time and focused effort can lead to better work, shouldn’t we all be taking our time?
Ask any creative and they will tell you that they hate when being creative feels like work. Ask any creative who has made a career out of their creativity, and they will tell you it’s always been work. You have to put in the work to get the most out of your ideas, and that begins by not letting them slip through your fingers in a fit of spontaneous creation. You don’t have to save everything because not all things you think up will be great, but you should see them through long enough to know whether or not you’re onto something potentially massive. Refining those senses takes time, but it’s worth the effort.
Don’t let great ideas go to waste. Take notes. Record your thoughts. Do whatever you need to do to ensure those moments of brilliance that strike like lightning coursing through your veins are not gone just as soon as they arrive. Wring every ounce of possibility out of each idea and, in time, you will find yourself creating things that change the world.
James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.