Quotations on Composing

Today I thought I’d share a few of my favorite quotations on the subject of composing (and on work in general). They’re not all from composers, but they’re all relevant—especially to TV composers, for whom the beginning of autumn is often synonymous with the onset of sleep deprivation.*

“Half of composing is staring out the window.” —Jack Smalley

“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.”—Henry Ford

“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.”—Leonard Bernstein

“There is nothing greater than the joy of composing something oneself and then listening to it.”—Clara Schumann

“I told my personal trainer I wanted a workout designed for the Olympic sport of sitting on my butt for 12 hours a day.” —Ron Jones

“There’s a thin line between hard-ass and dumb-ass.” —Eric Haney

Clockpanik [definition]: Not enough time to a) finish the score, b) record the score, c) become a star in this lifetime.” —Charles Bernstein

“It would appear that the Muse is a recycler.” —Richard Bellis

“I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well.”—Johann Sebastian Bach

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” —Douglas Adams

“I write with great difficulty, wedged up in a corner, and having my heels on the paper as often as the pen .” —Charles Dickens

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”–Beverly Sills

“The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution.” —Igor Stravinsky

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”—Ira Glass

“Find the good lick and stay with it.” —Mike Post

“Composing is hard work.”—John Williams

*…at least for now. It’s increasingly common that shows run, well, whenever they run. Netflix, Amazon and other new distribution channels have already disrupted the old paradigm, and will only continue to do so. I’ll have more to say on this in an upcoming blog post.