One of the concepts that’s on my mind when I’m producing music is the notion of okay for now. Though it may sound slacker-ish, the mindset describes a settling for whatever I’m doing at the moment and not worrying about if it’s good or bad or where it may or may not be going. (Note: I have many more sketches for pieces that haven’t yet gone anywhere than I do finished tracks. No rush—or as John Berger said: “I have all the time in the world.”) A reason for the okay for now mindset is to focus on smaller tasks and in the process suspend bigger questions about whether all the time I’m devoting to these tasks is “worth it.” I’m happy to report that it’s always worth it when your work feels like a Quest and you can accept that what you’re doing in the moment you’re working in is okay for now.
This is not to say that I’m settling for making music that I don’t like: I try not to work on things I’m not feeling, and I often make stuff I dislike. Over the past year, one track took the better part of six months to go from something I disliked to something I like. I stuck with it only as a test to see if was, in fact, improvable. Another track I finally abandoned after I realized that no amount of tinkering could save it from being just ok. Back to settling: the okay for now mindset involves suspending judgment as much as I can so I can keep flowing. Another way to describe it: getting into a mindset where you don’t personally care that much about the music you’re making or the fact that it’s yours; you’re just its shepherd, bumping it forward (wait—all those sheep are mine?), not trying to make anything “serious”, just working with the unfinished sounds to make them sound okay for now.
It turns out that the okay for now concept works well when you combine it with working in layers, which is a powerful tool. Good examples of working layers are shown and explained is this video of the painter Gerhard Richter and this article on the painter Vija Celmins. When you work on music production in layers, each day you’re doing different things to or with the sounds. One day it could be improvising and recording, another day it could editing and sound design, and so on. Each day’s work raises the question of whether not what you’re doing is adequate to move the project towards wherever it needs to go. I don’t have the answer to that question, but adopting the okay for now mindset helps me suspend concerns about the layers I’m currently working on. Though this may sound even more slacker-ish, I consider the layer of work a success if I do something that I don’t dislike, and if it sounds okay for now that’s even better. If by chance I tinker my way into something that sounds quite good, that’s enough reason to write a short blog post about it.