After The Idea Is Hatched

“The difference between a successful artist and a failed one happens after the idea is hatched.  The difference is the race to completion. Did you finish?”

Seth Godin, Linchpin

I have no problem coming up with ideas.  Little ideas.  But completion – that’s another story.

I have a playlist in itunes called “Christine’s Ideas.”  It contains hours worth of music.  But only in little, unfinished pieces. Like this…

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A few years ago, I had a conversation with Ted Quinlan (who was giving me some guitar lessons) about writing.  Back then, I had the same problem.  Good at starting, not so good at finishing.  He said that whenever he writes something, he finishes it enough so that it’s workable. Meaning: he could bring it to a gig that night and play it with a band.


Time to turn these ideas into workable tunes.  There must be some good stuff in this playlist (God knows there’s a lot of crap!)

7 Responses to After The Idea Is Hatched

  1. dean says:

    i have the same problem. i will sit with my guitar, piano, ukelele… and get an idea that i think has some potential and could be worth pursuing and grab my recorder (or iphone), my 4-track, record it to the computer. if i can discipline myself at all i will take these recordings and dump them to the computer and put them in a folder to be reviewed further later. if i really get into it i’ll name the files, something like “fuzzy guitar thing”, “bouncy cmaj7”, “slow/dark finger-pick in Aminor”. the problem is i rarely end up going back to these things that seemed worthwhile to record in the first place. i think the itunes thing is a good idea because at least they can be there in front of you instead of in a hidden folder that never gets seen.

  2. yeah, having them all in my itunes is a good thing. when I listen to music on shuffle, I get to hear some of these interjected into the mix. it helps to hear them in the context of a whole bunch of finished music.

  3. joshua says:

    The shuffle thing is a great idea! I have a terrible habit of naming things after the date they were made, which within three days means totally nothing to me. I try to have the discipline to go back through at the end of each month and listen to everything, but it doesn’t always work. I always thought it’d be fun to pick one of these folders completely at random, and do a trade with someone else’s forgotten piece. Finish them off for each other you know?

  4. aaron says:

    I find one thing that helps me get things finished once the “ideas” folder starts to get to full, is to go through it and choose five or six ideas that stick out and put them into a new folder called “new album” or something like that. Then I just try to work on only those songs until they’re done. There’s a strange winter period for each song, between the fun initial creation and the final exciting stretch of finishing, that you must acknowledge and mentally force yourself to push through in order to get anywhere. I find a “new album” folder helps with that!

  5. Great post! That Ted Quinlan is a wise man… And killer player, of course. I have often found myself doing the same thing, calling it a ‘band-aid solution’. Rather than allowing a piece/song/etc to stop developing because of a ‘problem’, I will throw something in there that I might not be entirely pleased with to keep the momentum going, by filling a gap, creating a transition, etc. – promising myself to repair/replace/improve it asap. This is a vital (but seldom mentioned – so thanks again) part of the creative process that keeps things from coming to a dead halt and staying there. I’m kind of a perfectionist, so I’m easily halted without a ‘band aid solution’ ;+)



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