In every project, and every day of my life, I try to expand my own approach in an effort to learn something new. Voices was an opportunity to explore such challenges and push my creativity. Among the most valuable lessons was a deliberate choice to practice a healthy relationship with this project. Early on I decided to show respect for this work by not confronting it when I felt stressed. This meant in moments of self-doubt or anxiety about my creativity or ability to meet a deadline, I decided to address my stress before approaching creative content.
In doing so, I realized the extent to which we trick ourselves into believing stress is a motivating force and is an essential part of productivity. I think we’re all guilty of putting on busy face, and over sharing the “amount of work we have to do” as though no one else in the world could possibly understand. Conversations with other composers come to mind, where we share our work and express such sentiments. The common narrative paints a scenario where the excitement of musical ideas inevitably fades into an abyss of stress when faced with the practicality of actually composing the work. It sometimes feels stress is an ontological imperative in creating, and importantly, this stress needs to be tethered to the work itself. In terms of Voices, I felt ethically uncomfortable attributing my own stress to a work that is built out of emotionally heavy stories from people’s lives. In turn, I realized that my deliberate choice to not indulge my stress opened a healthy relationship with Voices. This allowed positive emotions of gratitude and humility to fill the spaces that would have easily been occupied by anxiety. Now, in completing the score, it is clear that stress is not a necessary component of productivity, meeting a deadline, or building new work.
That said, there will always be stress in balancing the temporal constraints around creating work with the desire to express everything! As I was feeling the approaching the deadline for this score call upon my stress, I found solace in something an undergraduate mentor shared with me nearly 10yrs ago. In recognizing I can easily revel in the weeds of ideas forever, she told me, “ You never finish Sean, you just stop.” The reality is, we will never finish, we will always just stop- in all aspects of our lives, and life in general. The humbling reality is that our life’s work will never be “finished,” at least not alone. In building a healthy relationship with Voices, I can trust it will reach others and build meaningful ideas and strong emotions through their imaginations. While I could pause time for the rest of my life to “finish” Voices, I doubt I would feel happy or fulfilled in that decision. Our time, our worth, our creativity, and our lives are multi-dimensional, multivalent, and totally fascinating. And they only happen once. And for me, stress and anxiety are not an integral part of that experience. And I have to believe these lessons I learned in creating Voices translate far beyond this work. But for now, I’m going to stare in the face all the work I want to accomplish and enjoy taking a break, and telling those longing and attention grabbing faces that they can wait their turn.
Thanks for reading.