I’m writing a trumpet ensemble piece and need to increase my speed.
I need a system, not goals. It’s not enough to say “X pages by Y date.” I need to focus on the repeatable steps. What’s tasks can I perform with 100% reliability? What tasks can I perform with nearly 100% reliability? What tasks are not reliable?
Things I can always do:
•Clean my room
•Sit at the piano
•Line staff paper
•Write a pedal point
•Play a part into my DAW
•Take a walk
Things I can almost always do:
•Write a melody
•Edit a melody on paper
•Expand a local pedal point into a contrapuntal part
•Evaluate a secondary part in my DAW
Things that take a lot of time:
•Hear a fully realized texture in my mind and try to recreate it on paper
•Play multiple parts on the piano
•Evaluate multiple parts while playing
•Imagine the overall shape of the piece in my ears
For my purposes, I’m going to pretend that all the tasks in the last group are impossible. If I catch myself doing one, I will immediately switch to a task in one of the first two groups. Furthermore, if I have any difficulty performing a task in the second group, I will immediately switch to a task in the first.
The number of measures or pages composed will have no bearing on my evaluation of a composing session. Instead I will consider a session successful if I maintain awareness throughout and switch tasks appropriately. After each session I’ll reflect on the process of task awareness and task switching to consider what I can do to make it easier.
Lastly, how to evaluate the system? Before I start, I’ll declare what Nassim Taleb would call an “uncle point.” That is a cost which once reached, the endeavor ends. In this case, since I know my writing speed (I track my hours) I’ll give myself 10 writing sessions to implement the system. If my writing speed is slower by the end, I’ll abandon the system, since the opportunity cost of implementing it is too high.
We’ll know soon!