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Wildebeests, Will, And The Specificity Of Need  

by Peter Himmelman

July 18, 2012 | 8:34 pm

Here’s a question from Melanie R. of Baltimore, Maryland:
 
“Dear Big Muse what’s the best way to actually finish something? I walk around with all these ideas for things I want to accomplish creatively but I can’t seem to see them through.”
 
 Melanie, without knowing what you’re working on specifically, I’m going to take a guess and say that in general, your problem might be that you’re dreaming too broadly.
 
Notice I didn’t say that you’re dreaming too big. One never wants to limit the scope of their aspirations, at least not from the outset. What I mean by broadly is that ideas come into being just like starfish, poison mushrooms, and wildebeests:
 
They all start from very tiny pieces.
 
That is, they grow into complexity from microscopic parts. In the case of living organisms, I’m referring to individual cells - but even they can be broken down into smaller and smaller components: molecules, atoms, and quarks. But for now, let’s not go there -as a matter of fact Melanie, let’s never go there.
 
How does this relate to your problem? Here’s an example I often use from the world of songwriting which might help shed some light on what I mean.
 
Let’s say I want to write a song and I’m motivated by two factors, one of which will be helpful in terms of my finishing the song and one less so. See if you can tell which is the more effective motivation:
 
1. I have a desire to become FAMOUS! I want to become the greatest songwriter of all time.
 
2. I have a desire to write a song for my Mother for her 75th birthday party which will take place at my brother’s house in Minneapolis on Tuesday April 17 at three pm where there will be about thirty guests at the party and if I were to perform a song about my Mom there -a lovely song that captured her wonderful energy, her kindness, her beauty, and the love we all have for her, then I would feel special, my Mom would feel like a queen for a day, and I could bask in the love and the appreciation that everyone would have for me.
 
Sorry for the run-on sentence but do you see where I’m going? In the second motivation, I’ve begun to break down my desire to write a song into small pieces. Not quite cells or quarks, but small do-able pieces that will no doubt motivate and stimulate the completion of the task.
 
In the first motivation, the one where I want to be (FAMOUS!) there is a big dream, which as I said earlier, is a great thing and you need that impetus to fuel the overall cause. But without breaking the dream into specific components, the chance that a song - or anythng else- will actually emerge hovers around zero.
 
The specificity of need has to be identified.
 
Why are you doing whatever it is you want to do? When do you need it done? And perhaps, most importantly, for whom are you doing this? Who will benefit from its emergence in the world? If you can answer those questions you will be well on your way to “finishing things.” 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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In addition to being a Grammy and Emmy nominated songwriter and composer, Peter Himmelman is a visual artist, writer and founder of Big Muse—an organization dedicated to...

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