Monday Rules (Part 1)

image from Open Culture

image from Open Culture

This list of Rules comes from a piece over at Open Culture, and before I begin I'd like to say how appreciative I was that the author correctly attributed these rules to Sister Corita Kent, even though most of the planet knows them as John Cage's.

At first I was going to do a general gloss on the whole set, but I've decided to make this a series.  Welcome to Monday Rules!

Rule 1: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for a while.

(Yes, I'm cleaning up the grammar/punctuation.)

There are two points I'd like to make about this rule.  The first is that it's direct reflection of our Precept of RITUAL, specifically that of creating a time and place for your work, and then protecting that time and place.

I am extremely lucky to have a room of my own, a study, that I can work in.  Even more luckily, I have created a back yard space that inspires me and I will often begin new pieces out there in a trusty WASTE BOOK. Your space might be your kitchen table, or the local coffee shop, or your public library. Or your tiny house on Cape Cod.

Likewise, I'm lucky enough to be retired and so I can structure my time any way I like.  I mostly work creatively in the mornings, but I've been known to brave the afternoon heat to jot down ideas. Back when I was working full time, I set aside specific evenings and weekend mornings to work.

The trick is to find a time and place, and protect it!

The second point I'd like to make about Rule 1 is that it can also refer to the work itself. As I wrote about last Wednesday, I have come to terms with the fact that I'm a very melody-centered composer. That flavor of music is a place that I trust, and I'm learning to trust it.

I have to fight against the feeling that to be creative you have to always push the "limits," whatever those are, either the limits of the artform you're working in, or your own. Rule 1 cautions us that sometimes you just need to stay put and work on what feels right, immediate, and yes, easy.

So as I think about composing again, I will probably not plunge into some great orchestral work, as much as I'd like to think I could do that. (Narrator voice: He could not do that.) Instead, I will probably write another set of little piano pieces, and they will probably be pretty little waltzes. Why not? It is a place that I trust.