Revisiting an old project that’s been niggling at me since I was 18. Finally took it to my musical theater writer’s lab – opened it up for criticism after decades.
I thought it was something to be protected, the music I’d written. But they said, “Hey, if that doesn’t work, throw it out.”
Just throw it out? Throw. It. Out??? What a revelation. How daring. How friggin’ WONDERFUL!
Reminds me of a time, sitting at the piano with my mother, working on a piece I’d written. I reached over, crossed out some lyrics on the page and rewrote them.
She gasped, “You can’t do that! You can’t change what the composer wrote!”
“Mom – I am the composer.” But the fear is still there: what if I screw something up that was good? What if I throw the baby out with the bath water? What if I just throw the baby out and spend my life stupidly trying to raise responsible bath water?
“It was better before.”
“Why’d you have to change it?”
“Leave well enough alone.”
The idea that even the most successful of my work is sacrosanct … (I looked it up, it means “Regarded as too important or valuable to be interfered with” – surprising to me that I often use words correctly even when I don’t really know what they mean) … it’s stifling.
We deserve the opportunity to ruin our own work by trying to get it closer to the truth.