Writing about your own artistic/music practice

A choreographer I often work with is publishing a book about her work. She has asked me to write an article for it about my musical practice for her work. I find i run into a huge block when I have to write about my own musical practice. I’m not academically schooled, I’m an autodidact musician and artist.
I do occasionally write for project ideas or about other artists. I manage to usually avoid writing about myself and also see a value in leaving things non verbalised. But i know it can also bring my practice further to bring unconscious process into the continuous mind.

I’m probably not the only one struggling with this and in the lines community i’m often impressed my the writing and language skills i encounter here.
How did you learn this? What struggles did you have to overcome? What helped? Any techniques or general tips?
I hope this thread can be a resource of tips for writing and thinking about one’s own practice.


Perhaps get someone to ask you questions and transcribe it. I work in academia and I see a lot written about musicians practice with mixed results. The most effective in my view is when people just talk about there practice in conversations. It allows things to flow.


You don’t have to be too conceptual. Start by just literally describing the physical things that you do. Assume that no detail is too small or boring. For example, I mostly work with Ableton Live. The process of setting up a session, browsing for samples and warping them out seems very banal to me, but for people who don’t use DAWs, these things are fascinating and strange. As you are explaining the bare facts of what you do, you may naturally find yourself wanting to explain why you are doing them. (“I use samples because I like to be able to interact with existing recordings rather than starting from a blank page.”) You may find it easy to fill pages this way.


I like the suggestion of describing the physical tasks. As an additional activity you could write a brief history. (Totally made up example;) 1995 - played in first punk band 2000 - first solo guitar concert 2010 - first performance of large ensemble work. I think that adding milestones and places you were when they happened would be helpful as a guideline.


You could describe the emotional arc of your music making:

  • What draws you to create: mood or habits?
  • What keeps you going? What makes you stop: satisfaction or discouragement?
  • Creating for yourself vs for an audience (real or implied): what is your relation to the listener in the moment of creation?

I learned a lot from reading the writings and interviews of a certain set of progressive
/art rock artists/producers like Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, David Byrne and David Sylvian.

These gentlemen are quite adept at thinking “philosophically.” Or something like that anyway.

Some folks think they are pompous bloviators, but I don’t…,


And don’t forget to talk about " the value of leaving things non verbalised "…


In addition to the above comments, I might suggest that you think about your relation to the choreographer; to dance; and to movement in general. From what you’ve described above, I would expect that your contribution to the book connects somewhat explicitly with the choreographer’s practice. As a potential reader, I’d at least like to learn how the music you create for her work aligns or departs from your other work. But knowing a little more about the publication, and the exact prompt the choreographer has given you, would help me offer more intelligible advice.


Whenever I have to write or speak about my work I try to be completely honest. Sometimes that means admitting that the way I arrive at an idea isn’t always…the most sophisticated.
I think this is hard to do sometimes, because the presumption is that someone is going to read what you’ve written (so you can fall into an ego trap!). It can be hard not to ‘clean it all up’ or mythologize your processes…but I think it’s important to say what is actually happening.
I also think it’s beneficial to pitch the language to the level of an average reader (This is what newspapers do) so that your ideas are understandable.

@Rodrigo will have something to say about this topic. Tagging him in here.


I found this to be quite difficult at first as well. But since I enjoyed sharing things, whenever I had a new video, project, software, whatever, I would put it up and write a little paragraph of context/info/description. And that kept happening long enough that it started getting longer and longer, and now is fucking crazy.

I think an easy trap can also be to write how you think people write. As in, trying to write in an “academic” or “journalistic” tone. For one, it tends to not come off well (like seeing a super photoshopped picture), and often tends to distract from what you’re actually trying to say.

So with that I suggest just writing about whatever you find interesting. Whatever it was that inspired you to do (or not) a certain thing. Specific details, as @Ethan_Hein points out, can be quite useful too. Stuff that doesn’t seem immediately interesting, but is where you spend a lot of time, might actually be interesting to someone else.


For me, it’s helpful to try to remember that what we’re all doing is both Art and Craft. Art being the inspiration and ideas part and Craft being the implementation part.

They’re inherently intermingled but can usefully be considered from their own perspective.

I see a lot of writings and interviews in which the frequent post-gig conversation of “hey, what’s that gizmo you’re using?” is dismissed as gear fetishization or something, but it’s always felt like a reasonable line of inquiry to me.

It’s a much longer and deeper (and hopefully less public) conversation to dig into inner realms of inspiration, psychology, spirituality, and other drivers of the Art parts.

It’s lovely that we can engage with one another on both levels here. It’s a big part of what makes this place particularly special.


I can think of three things that help me here.

First - if you have nothing to say - write about that. Sit at your writing spot and write down, “I have nothing to say, there is nothing in my head, there is nothing that is verbalizable about my musical process…” Now answer - why - or how do you know - or what makes you feel that way? All of those are super interesting in my opinion.

Second - listen to your music and, while listening, write a response to it.

Third - and this can be used in conjunction to the above or with anything really - write a response to what you wrote. I find having a conversation with myself through writing to be very insightful. Do I disagree with my yesterday’s assertions? Is there in fact more subtlety to what I initially observed? The art of re-writing - even a single sentence or a single word - is fascinating in my experience. Also when you do this - you get as a byproduct a record of your thought process which might be really interesting for us outsiders (of your experience) to read.

one more - the writing mise en place is super important to me. When I write at a computer I find my writing more disjoint, discombobulated, and I make more logical jumps than might be useful to the reader. When I write with pen and pepper a single thought mind is much easier to flow and that slowness also gives me time to more carefully choose my words. I find my pen/paper writing more honest to myself and what I intend to convey. My computer writing is usually more complex/intellectual - at least what comes most easy. I am interested in investigating a typewriter to see what differences are there but I haven’t had the opportunity to.


yea - this is a recipe for good art making in my opinion - the art of leaving things unsaid/undone - but perhaps through that lack a reference can be created in the mind of the experiencer.

1 Like

Bela Lugosi is said (unsaid unsaid).

I don’t know why Bauhaus popped into my head just then. It happens.

Hardest thing about writing is the blank page. So fill it up. Start with white noise (whatever comes to mind) and then filter (edit) it.

Great writers keep writing separate from editing. If you can do that, it becomes possible to turn the writing part into almost a form of logorrhea, words just spilling over each other into the page in a mad rushed jumble. This isn’t the text that will get published, this is the text that banishes the blank page.

Sound designers do this too. Look up ill Gates or Mr. Bill talking about “mudpies”. It’s just a track of random weird noises that you end harvest samples from and refining later.


I don’t know if this is helpful, but I tend to write about things I’m trying to better understand or develop and, in writing, furthering that development or understanding. It’s often said to write what you know, and while I think it’s helpful to approach writing with some base of understanding (usually through reading the work of others or whatever other means of exposure–obviously through artistic and musical practice in this case), it’s perhaps most compelling for the reader and the writer to experience a sort of organic unfolding of ideas in the course of a text. I think that by the end of a piece of writing, there should be something like a broadened field of inquiry open (again, for the reader as well as the writer), which is often paradoxically accomplished in gathering together disparate bits of information and collecting one’s own thoughts on the matter; this can be likened to how so many areas science, culture, industry, etc. coalesce in the engineering, assembly, and launch of a rocket, often all for the common purpose of exploration.

I think I apply this generally across my writing (and had never put it such-ways until just now, incidentally), but in the case of my writing about music (which is never purely academic, because it directly influences my musical practice), I’ve applied it in exploring the significance of the electronic form of music and had to learn quite a lot of the history and much regarding the technical aspects of electronic sound in all its forms and was also given to abandon many assumptions about the duality of art and craft, for instance (though admittedly, the seeds of this learning and shedding of assumptions had preceded the work). However you go about it, writing is an excellent way of organizing thoughts and to catalyze the process of thinking about whatever it is that commands your attention, and though the musical form can be sharply distinct and even at odds with the written word as a creative practice, you’re likely to find much that is expressible bound up within that form, or certainly behind it.

1 Like

I have a friend who tends to write more broadly around ideas, before honing in on a few final words on himself in the final paragraph or so.

You’re in a position to write about choreography, the relationship between dance (I’m assuming) and sound or music, historical moments that define current trajectory, and as a contribution to that, your approach in the current context / modern framework.

You can’t have one without the other, so don’t be afraid to involve and anchor your friend in the conversation, how she moves/directs, influences the way you compose sound. This could bring up all sorts of stories imo. Good luck !

Edit: realise I used the word diatribe which wasn’t what I meant at all, more so a story or narrative

1 Like

Thanks a lot all of you! There are so many really valuable tips here.
And the support i feel in it is also something that really helps. I’m writing and hope to share it here once it’s done.


what do you mean by ?

I am trying to talk about my artistic device of choice - which is to have the intent of the work be about not what is said but about what is not said. I think there is some relationship to spiritual concepts. The one I know some about is the “not this, not that” concept in vedanta. Applying this to the practice of writing (and music making too) is to have your intention in your mind/heart/spleen and to know that that concept is ineffable and then explore possibilities but call out each one for being not quite right. Another way I think about it is to talk around the thing you want to say. I find this particularly useful when you don’t know how to say specifically what you want but you can describe things it is not. Another reason I like this method is because it allows the experiencer/reader/listener to more directly fill in your creation with their own experience.


Great topic! I try to say things out loud, alone, after I’ve written them. If the way it is written (usually as opposed to the content) makes me feel very awkward I’ll rewrite it (the first few versions almost always feel awkward). I think this keeps things more natural and attenuates my pretentions a little.*
*damn, ‘attenuates my pretensions’, awkwardness, might need to re-write, it goes like that.
Looking forward to more suggestions.

1 Like