Mr S and I were talking yesterday to our friend, composer Jeff Rona. Jeff is a remarkable musician – he’s written music for everyone from Ridley Scott to Brian De Palma. One of our greatest nights ever was listening to Jeff conduct the Hollywood Bowl orchestra with Lisa Gerrard and ‘Dead Can Dance’.
Yesterday, Jeff recalled when he was a young flibbertigibbet of a composer, and thought about his music as ‘important’. He knew he was creating pieces of art, and this thought often made writing music difficult. Nothing was good enough – what would posterity think? Sometimes it wasn’t even fun. Then, one day he was in the studio trying some stuff out when he ran into a well known RnB artist. This guy was recording and having a great time, and he and Jeff got chatting. ‘The problem is,’ said RnB guy to Jeff, ‘You think of your music as fine china while I think of mine as paper plates.’
From that moment, Jeff resolved on only ever making paper plates. He sits in the studio and plays about, experiments, tries stuff out, has fun and doesn’t worry about the significance of his composition. And believe me, his music is amazing (it’s the staple of my playlist for Fred).
While Jeff is talking about composing music, I think the metaphor holds for writing fiction too. I write ‘literary fiction’ (didn’t know that until agent Stan told me…) but I don’t think of my writing as either important or significant. I like to have fun when I write. It’s not always enjoyable – some days it’s just hard and I feel that everything I do is nonsense. But, when I don’t worry and try stuff out, play with words and see what works and what doesn’t, good things happen. I can always cut the mistakes. Throw stuff away. After all, I only write on paper plates.
You can listen to Jeff Rona on itunes or here: http://www.jeffrona.com/index.php