Say you want to compose a song. How would you begin? Here are some starting points:
1. A Tune. Most people would start by trying to think of a melody. If you can whistle a catchy tune then you are well on your way. The melody is the basic building block of most popular music and this is surely one of the most reliable places to begin. But it is not the only place.
2. The Lyrics. Write out the lyrics for your song and then read them as a poem. As you read them over and over again a tune might present itself to you. Many composers start with the lyrics and go from there.
3. A Rhythm. If you think of ‘Thriller’ by Michael Jackson it is most likely that you will think of the introductory rhythm first. It is a driving beat on which the song is built. Many groups jam by starting with a rhythm on the drums and bass and then they experiment to see what fits on top.
4. A Chord Sequence. Many guitarists compose by strumming a sequence of chords and then see what melody suggests itself. There are sequences of chords which are somehow pleasing to the ear and seem to form a natural story in a major and minor keys. Many rock and blues numbers are based on a well-known 12 bar blues chord progression.
5. A Single note or pair of notes. Sometimes just one note or a pair of notes can trigger the imagination and form the basis of a composition. Beethoven’s fifth symphony springs to mind as a magnificent work built initially on the same note played three times followed by another.
6. An Instrument. Try just thinking of a particular instrument and the tone it makes. A saxophone or a trumpet has so distinctive a sound that you can sometimes imagine a song based on an introduction from such an instrument.
The point is that there are many different ways to start composing your masterpiece. The same is true in other creative endeavours. Whether you are writing a report, giving a presentation, taking a photograph or planning a marketing campaign you can get inspiration by trying a different starting place. If your creative efforts are flagging then come at the issue from a new direction. Start from a new place.