Playing for Time

Right about now, I’m consumed with work: finding new work… finishing existing work… following up on finished work. It reminds me of the one thing veteran composers all have in common: they’re all extremely careful with time.

In the end, time is all we’re playing for. One of the best uses for our money is to buy us a little more time: time to polish up a demo; to strengthen relationships with our filmmaker contacts; to spend outside of music, with family and friends. And the thousands of other little things that make your life a life.

The business of composing is a lot like the business of a restaurant. Besides the amusing comparisons to junk food, fast food and kitchens full of too many cooks (!), there’s the overarching idea that there’s always something to do. Whatever time exists will be used in full.

For example, I’m using my time right now to write this. I could have written it last night, but I needed that time to finish up demo edits on a few cues for a project demo I’m working on next week. I could have written it tomorrow morning, but that’s my time for taking care of business stuff.

With experience—and maybe just with age and the inevitable accumulating responsibilities of adulthood—it’s important to build a subroutine into your thought process that automatically seeks out these kinds of efficiencies. Filling the empty moments with something meaningful, even if it’s simply to rest… meditate… re-focus. Because once you’re down in the trenches of an actual gig, for pay, with actual deadlines, it’ll be too late to have to think about anything else.

Anticipate. That’s the takeaway here. Use the down time to anticipate upcoming time crunches and do as much of the prep work when it should be done: well beforehand.