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Composing with dyslexia: Part II

What you can do to make the act of composing and creating a healthy and enjoyable activity.

Give yourself time: Create your own private space that allows you to work at your own pace. For this, it is crucial not to compare yourself with others, but to set your own standards - be ambitious but not competitive. Fully immerse yourself in your tasks and have the confidence to follow through with your ideas, using methods that work best for you. Reaching a state of completion will require patience and commitment.

Trust yourself: By paying too much attention to what others are doing you will distract yourself and intensify any sensations of insecurity you may have. Anxiety to catch up with everyone else may give you the urge to rush through things, without investing the appropriate amount of attention, resulting in the submission of poorly or clumsily executed work. If you are a perfectionist you may find yourself starting over and over again, the insecurity of previous failures enforcing a habit that makes it almost impossible to carry anything through to a satisfactory conclusion. In order to overcome this disruptive mentality, you must prove to yourself that you can complete things first, and then concentrating on perfecting them.

Remain consistent: Keep track of where you are going with your thoughts. Since reading and writing takes an over-proportional amount of time and effort, it is easy to get out of the habit of recording your ideas so that you end up getting lost and going off topic. Keep returning to the start of the development process, retracing your thoughts in order to retain consistency in the progression towards a conclusion. One method that may help with this is to label sections of your work with titles that describe what is going on, allowing you to structure the development of larger projects in a more coherent manner.

Fig.3 Musical notes forming the foundation of my reed quintet 'August’ ,with labels to track the purpose and progression of the music.

Trust yourself: give yourself free reign to explore your thoughts. Write them down – do not let them linger in the back of your mind, even if you are unsure of where they fit in to your work. Without realising it, these ideas sometimes form vital connection points between the scattered fragments of your thoughts. Brainstorms are important ways for us to develop an overview of the concepts we wish to explore in particular topics. They also allow us to pursue a non-linear thinking process, providing space for the discovery of creative and original connections between different points. This is one of the reasons I also prefer to write on blank, unruled paper before structuring my ideas in a format that is ready for conventional presentation.

Follow your instincts: Overthinking may make you question the validity of your ideas, quenching the passion of inspiration which drives the creative process forwards. Being overly-critical will make it hard to fully explore your ideas. Sometimes you may find yourself inadvertently obsessing over concepts despite your resolution to abandon them. These notions linger like unanswered questions in the back of your mind and it is important to address them before they form an unnecessary burden.

Stay present: When your mind feels cluttered through the continual disturbance of unhelpful thoughts, remember that they all require equal attention. Acknowledging them is the first step to gaining clarity as it will enable you to make a conscious decision about whether you wish to pursue them or not. Ironically, by resisting the acknowledgment of distracting thoughts, we limit the scope of our creative thinking process and make it harder for ourselves to focus. The ability to prioritise the ‘relevance’ of information needed in the conception of an art work requires the exclusion of the ‘irrelevant’. This cannot happen without its’ recognition.

Whilst this principle applies to anyone working in the creative arts industry, it is particularly relevant to those who have dyslexia, as there is a tendency for the mind to wander from notion to notion in a scattered and seemingly illogical manner. However, I would argue that these connections are often in fact perfectly logical, though they may not become apparent until a later stage. This is where sometimes, external influences such as advice or criticism may not penetrate further than the surface level, and in fact cause more harm then good. For this reason, it is important for one to be deeply immersed in one's own creative explorations, and fully identify the significance of the ideas before sharing them with others.

Ask the right questions: When seeking advice from teachers, relatives or friends, you may not be able to communicate the problem itself, but by asking the right questions, the problem may become apparent of its' own accord. To formulate the appropriate questions, you must spend time figuring out what you have been doing so far, what your purpose has been, and what you are hoping to achieve. This process will help you to gain understanding in to what is going on, so that you can present your ideas coherently and receive constructive criticism.

Finding a starting point: It doesn’t matter where you start, as long you are conscious of, and loyal towards the creative purpose you pursue. Whether starting in the beginning, middle or end, having a coherent formulation of principles will enable you to affectively restructure your work at the end. On that note, I would like to add that this paragraph was in fact initially written somewhere in the middle of the article! Having an overview of this entire piece, has helped me reshape it to follow a structure that flows in a significantly more coherent manner than the original draft that was conceived!

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