Really good new music or art. It’s got to be new. It’s got to be something I haven’t seen before. Usually when I’m not composing it’s because I’m feeling disconnected from the music-making community which makes my work feel irrelevant. Since I’m in a small town and there aren’t a lot of musicians I can go hang out with, art and music become a proxy for community. A good piece of art makes me feel connected–like maybe my music matters too.
Scheduled activities. I can’t remember how many times I’ve been told that I should schedule a time to compose and that that would make me compose. That never works for me. That mostly makes me play video games. Sometimes it even makes me do laundry. But if I schedule other things so I’m active enough that my in-between moments become a commodity to be savored, I’ll stick creative work into all those in-between moments. It’s seriously counter-intuitive, but it’s what works. Whenever I fall into the trap of thinking that I could compose more if I were less busy, I end up composing less.
Fountain Pens and Cool Blank Books. Every single time a Borders Books went under, I used to show up at the last minute and buy one of each blank book they had left. Now that they’re completely gone, that strategy doesn’t generalize so well for those who want really nice blank books for crazily cheap prices. But I think when my stockpile is gone, it will absolutely be worth shelling out the cash. I just like the tactile experience of writing with a nice pen on really high quality paper. And what do I have to write on paper but thoughts about music? I can’t use really nice blank books for just anything. It has to be special. If I want to write in the books, I must compose. So I compose.