But in spite of all my meditations about creativity, I still sometimes buy into the common notion that for a few lucky people, art—or music, or writing—just sort of “happens.”
That’s why I loved reading Paul Simon’s thoughts about his songwriting process:
So when I begin, I usually improvise a melody and sing words—and often those words are just clichés. … I may come to a point in the song where I realize I don’t really have to come up with a great line here. I can let the music speak. What I need is a hooky melody. You’re going back and forth, words and music. If they come together—your best words with your best melody—well, that’s something. That’s rare.
Even after 50 years of composing, Paul Simon still has to follow a process, weed out the weak ideas, and work at his craft. And even after 50 years of putting words to music, he says that “If they come together … That’s rare.”
I don’t know whether it’s comforting or depressing to realize that it doesn’t get any easier. But I’m grateful that there are gifted people like Paul Simon who are willing to at least admit that it doesn’t get easier.