From TMBGs new album Glean!
They Might Be Giants play ALL of The Else May 31
Will we play lots of other new songs, like Lesbian Bar and Bills, Bills, Bills? Yes. But it’s also a special probably ONE TIME ONLY deal where we play all of THE ELSE. Don’t miss it! http://bit.ly/TMBG531
John F. talks beating writer’s block on TMBGareOK at tumblr
Hi John, I guess it’s safe to assume that you’ve never experienced this thing called “writer’s block” so you quite obviously are the wrong person to ask but maybe you happened to deal with it indirectly through friends or loved ones and could give me some advice on how to cope with it. I’m sorry I’m submitting this instead of sending a proper message but I don’t have a tumblr account. I hope it’s alright.
JF: I have certainly had many patches of relatively unproductive time, and I’ve also found myself fully disappointed in the quality of my work to a point where I felt like nothing I was doing was worthy of continuing.
But since you asked, off the top of my head in no particular order these are the things I’ve learned along the way about how to be productive that I now fully embrace.
Wake up early before everybody else, or go to bed late after everybody else.
When the muse speaks, stop and listen. If you have to excuse yourself from a nice meal with friends to hide in the bathroom of the restaurant writing something down or singing into a message machine–do it. And save it in a place you can come back to six months later.
If you start something–work on it as long as you can. Cancel the little things, put off the errand. Once a good idea is cooking, ride it until you get everything out. Coming back to it later will never be the same.
The two most meaningful things I learned in my Foundation Year in art school at Pratt (where I transferred in at a pitiful 21 and too many of my classmates were 17) relate to this. I swear was worth the 50k in student loans I graduated with–
1. Be rigorous with the materials. What does that mean? BE RIGOROUS WITH THE MATERIALS. Experiment. Edit. Reject. Improve. Distill. Expand. Extrapolate. Be weird. Be formal. Write free verse. Write in strict meters.
2. If you start ten projects just in sketch form, one of them will be really strong. There is nothing wrong with false starts and there is nothing wrong with experiments. Sit down and brainstorm with a timer. Set it for fifteen minutes and cook up an idea, then put it aside and go at another idea from a completely different angle for 15 minutes. Over a couple of hours you will get loose and you might be surprised at what you can cook up in a day. Maybe eight bad ideas, and two good ones. And then you go back and work up the two good ones and that seems like a lot of good things happening.
Approach your work in every way you can: Start with a melody. Start with a lyric. Start with a bass line. Start with a chord progression. Or do it all at the same time, but there is nothing that says one way or another is THE WAY. Write from the opposite perspective of your own. Maybe write the simplest thing you can. Write impressionistically about something no one else could ever understand, and don’t even try to explain it. Write about emotions you haven’t even felt. Pretend you are a detective, or an inanimate object. Use anything as a prompt.
If you are writing songs, take advantage of machines. Write to an exciting beat. Sing along to a metronome, record a chord progression on a smartphone or cassette recorder (cheap and dedicated) and sing or play melody lines over that so you don’t even have to think about the progression.
If you can’t work directly, figure out the things that keep your head in it–if I don’t feel up for writing a song I’ll program beats on a drum machine, or practice the guitar, or listen to music familiar or totally unknown to me.
Be tough enough on your work to throw away the bad half. You write a good lyric or a good chord progression, and then you finish the song and it’s not as good as you hoped–well don’t throw it all away. Maybe you can repurpose the best part in another project.
Think about your work every day. Work on it as much as you can without driving your family crazy.
Sunday May 31 TMBG PERFORM THE ELSE
We are dedicating a show to The Else album. We’ll play almost every song, plus I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar, Bills, Bills Bills, and MORE. This is a rare evening probably not to be repeated too soon, so you know what to do. Tickets http://bit.ly/TMBG531
and more TMBG shows:
Sunday, June 28 12:30 + 3:30 TWO TMBG KIDS SHOWS!
Like unicorns, a They Might Be Giants kids show is a magical and very rare thing. Tickets at 12:30 http://bit.ly/1RSFgoJ and 3:30 http://bit.ly/1KcbMzX
Sunday, July 26 TMBG PLAY A LINCOLN SHOW!
We are dedicating a show to the Lincoln album. We’ll play almost every song. And a lot more! http://bit.ly/1F7gOHx
They Might Be Giants play ALL of The Else May 31
Come on out to the big show. So many special rare songs, all the hits and all your favorites from all of TMBGs catalog. Two sets. An evening with TMBG. Tickets here! http://bit.ly/TMBG531