Means, ends, and “the law of the gift:” What should I write, how should I write it and…why am I doing this?



by Sarah Perske

After reading a bunch of articles about the writing process in connection with my writing center job this year, I was inspired to embark on a yearlong obsessive inquiry into the composing process. I searched for language to demystify the compositional thought process, tested different working methods, and tried to develop personal solutions to the age-old problems of procrastination, “composer’s block,” and indecisiveness.

When I discussed some of these explorations with my colleagues a few weeks ago, Stephen Bailey made the comment that for him, the question of “what” to write is more important than “how” to go about it, and that thinking too much about the “how” without enough attention to the “what” yields poor musical results. In other words, as Stephen pointed out more recently, “the process is usually less important than the result.” I agreed with him – and sent Nathan Cornelius into fits…

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