Projects and Processes

I’ve been writing songs and poetry since I was a teenager. In my 30s, I added journaling, academic writing, fiction, and more to my writing bag. More recently, I’ve started creating ambient music and shooting photos.

When I was younger, I didn’t have much of a process for my creative work. I’d get inspired and write a batch of songs. When I could afford it, I’d pick out the ones that I thought were the best and go into the recording studio.

Somewhere along the way, I learned how to do project-based work. I’m not claiming that I don’t still get inspired and just create. I do. But I also have planned projects and processes, a disciplined way of working.

If you looked at the Notes in my iPhone, you’d see a few clear examples of specific projects with folders titled:

  1. Singer-songwriter 22
  2. Blues 22
  3. Ukulele Songs Project 23
  4. Erickson/Graham
  5. 2024, Titles, Verses, Etc.
  6. Rejects and Unfinished Ideas

That’s right, I’m already working on ideas for 2024. One of next year’s projects is to write songs using the electric guitar. This leads me to process.

Here’s how my songwriting process has grown to work.

  1. Create a list of titles. This phase usually lasts a couple of weeks.
  2. Write lyrics without music. This phase lasts from 2-6 months.
  3. Set chosen lyrics to music. This phase lasts another 4-6 months. Some lyrics wind up in the “rejects file.” Sometimes, I resurrect rejects.
  4. Record demo versions of the completed songs.
  5. Start over.

I have similar, but less refined processes for writing poetry and fiction. This year, I’m doing the rewrite of A Train Called Forgiveness for my sabbatical. Next year, I hope to get back to work on another semi-fictional work that I started in late 2022.

With electronic music, I tend to either write during bursts of inspiration, or purposefully choose a block of time to create. I’m due to put some new electronic music out. I might have to go spend a weekend away from home and get it done.

My point is simple. Creative works don’t write themselves. Sometimes inspiration strikes. Sometimes we have to choose to work. I find that working on projects is a great motivator. And the longer I work on creativity in project-based formats, the more refined my processes become. – dse

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Author: Dan Steven Erickson

Dan Steven Erickson is a great undiscovered American songwriter.