You Need Deadlines (Slight Return)


My recent Ben Folds post got me thinking about how helpful deadlines really are to the songwriter.

Q: Do you sit down to write or do you have to get struck by [inspiration]?

Ben Folds: I have to get struck by the deadline. I always have songs in my head and I always have things that I’m starting but I find finishing it is really tough. Most of my best stuff was finished on a deadline.

Here’s a few other takes on the need to have a finish line. Brenton Brown likens the worship songwriters roles to a pastor who has to preach a sermon every Sunday whether it’s ‘finished’ or not.

Matt Redman … or Paul Baloche’s catalogue of songs don’t just happen. At a certain point, you can make a decision. You can either wait for the songs to come or you can treat these albums almost like a Sunday morning service, as a pastor, where I’m preaching to the church on Sunday. I need to prepare, I need to find bread for the brothers. I need to get the Word of God for them. Once you set up that structure, we’re going to try to record an album once every three years or something. That focus, that target, that deadline whatever you want to call it collates everything, coheres everything. You get more intentional about your songs. And that’s not a bad thing, is it?

Classical composer Rossini relied on deadlines to help him to complete his operas

Nothing primes inspiration more than necessity, whether it be the presence of a copyist waiting for your work or for the prodding of an impresario tearing his hair. In my time, all the impresarios in Italy were bald at thirty. I composed the overture to Othello in a little room in the Barbaja palace wherein the baldest and fiercest of directors had forcibly locked me with a lone plate of spaghetti and the threat that I would not be allowed to leave the room alive until I had written the last note. I wrote the overture to La Gazza Ladra the day of the opening in the theatre itself, where I was imprisoned by the director and under the surveillance of four stagehands who were instructed to throw my original text through the window, page by page, to the copyists waiting below to transcribe it. In default of pages, they were ordered to throw me out the window bodily….

Calvin understood the role of adrenaline as an aid to creativity

Lastly, Douglas Adams perhaps serves as a negative example. I remember as a young HitchHiker’s and Dirk Gently fan feeling the frustration of waiting years for the next novel as Adams tinkered around on the latest Apple product.

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

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About mattblick

Songwriter/Singer from Nottingham, UK. My 2nd EP, Everything In The World Is Fighting Everything In The Sky, is out now. I'm blogging (& podcasting) through the entire Beatles catalogue at Beatles Songwriting Academy. In my spare time I wish I had some spare time.
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