A Musing on Muses
Writers’ block happens to all artists at one point or another. Unfortunately for artists, game development deadlines don’t care one bit about writers’ block and will march towards you unendingly whether you’re writing or not. I had a very brief spell of writers’ block when I was writing the score for Lucidity. I’d written about 30 minutes of music at that point and had pulled from a vast majority of inspirations so far – “Byssan Lull,” late Romantic-era classical composers, trip-hop, etc. One afternoon in May, I sat down to start a new piece and just found myself staring at a blank session file without any ideas of where to begin.
One of the perils of game development is that you almost never have long stretches of uninterupted time to simply create. Email, meetings, phone calls, meetings, and email all get in the way on a regular – and regularly unpredictable – basis. Just when you start getting somewhere with a new piece of work, bureaucracy will intrude and pull you away just long enough to break the flow you were just enjoying.
Because I don’t have the luxury of not writing if I get stuck, I’ve come up with a handful of little tricks to try and kickstart my imagination in those times of need. Viewing concept art, driving to work without listening to the radio, singing in the shower – all of these can help. Perhaps one of the best methods is to simply step away from my computer, take a walk, and try not to think about writing anything. More often than not, I’ll find myself humming melodies or beat-boxing rhythms before I make it back to my desk.
That one afternoon in May, though, none of my tricks were working. I banged out some material for a couple of hours, and right before I headed home, listened back to it all only to realize it was a dead-end. That night, when I explained to my wife the creative block I was having, she said nonchalantly:
“Write something with harp and saxophone.”
And that was it. The pairing was so unusual that it immediately got my brain thinking about the possibilities. When I got into work the next day, the track flew together quickly and became one of my favorite tracks in the entire score. Named “Invasion of the Sea,” the final track begins with a quartet of saxophones playing cluster chords overtop of low, plucked harp notes. Probably not what my wife had in mind, but inspiration is funny that way. You never know where it’s going to lead you.