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Sitting With It: Thoughts on Inspiration & Creativity

By: Melissa Weikart

Inspiration is a strange concept. People inspire, events inspire, art inspires, the way the sun peeks out from behind a soft cloud at dusk and it’s corny but now you’re writing a song because you feel something.

It’s easy to romanticize inspiration and the creative process. The media tends to portray artists as mediators of the divine, overcome by the desire and duty to transmit their message to the world. The behind-the-scenes labor of creation is rarely documented in all its premeditated glory; that is, setting up your space, scheduling time to write, researching, editing, revising, occasionally scratching out entire sections. Frankly, it starts to sound like work, and that can get boring! It’s also worth noting that representations of artists are overwhelmingly male, and it can be hard for women and non-binary musicians to truly see themselves in the role of composer/leader. Shout out to Dominique Eade, my incredible voice teacher, who suggested I fill my space with posters of working women. I wish I could say I heeded her advice, but it turns out those posters are hard to find! I did hang a huge Bjork poster above my keyboard. (Did I mention I’m obsessed with Bjork)

Back to inspiration. It turns out that we can actually set ourselves up for inspiration, just like we can set ourselves up for success by drinking lots of water, or going for a run, or doing other things doctors encourage across the board. For me, that means decorating my “studio” (my bedroom) with the aforementioned Bjork poster, nerdy books about feminist theory, and plants. Making tea and lighting candles are extra bonuses. This might sound frivolously in line with the cliché self-care rhetoric that’s in vogue, but writing music is an incredibly vulnerable act, so why not take a moment to set up the ideal conditions for trusting and accepting yourself. You want the voice in your head to be on your team and validate your process, rather than lurk in the corner, only emerging to offer (non)constructive criticism. These conditions are different for everyone, so take some time to experiment with what feels comfortable.

But sometimes, it is true that inspiration strikes and all of a sudden you’ve written an entire song in one sitting because you were so infuriated, or ashamed, or nostalgic, or contemplative or all of the above at once. There’s something incredible about feeling so intensely that you are moved to write, and nothing else matters and it’s just you and your brain and your voice and your instrument or maybe it’s happening all in your head. It’s an unparalleled rush of adrenaline.

There’s not really a moral to my musings, besides the fact that inspiration and creativity are rarely logical in nature. There’s no formula, but it’s possible to have a multifaceted approach. And I guess that brings me to the idea of balance, which seems highly unattainable. Which is okay. But it can be helpful to reframe balance as an invitation to try out varying courses of action. The creative process is mysterious, and that’s certainly part of its appeal, but remember that you can also make it easier on yourself. On that note, happy writing!

Melissa Weikart is a vocalist, pianist, composer, and improviser based in Boston, MA. After graduating from Tufts in 2016 (B.A. Music and Spanish), she earned her a Master’s degree in Contemporary Improvisation at New England Conservatory, where she studied with Carla Kihlstedt, Anthony Coleman, Dominique Eade, and Hankus Netsky. At NEC, Melissa was awarded an Entrepreneurial Musicianship grant to recompose the album Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys for an all-female ensemble of 17 musicians. In December 2017, she released her debut EP “Coffee,” a collection of solo songs, and in October 2018, her improvising trio Paper Dolls released their EP called “Welcome to the Dollhouse.” Check out more on Mel's bandcamp site.

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