Dar Williams on productivity and creativity

I’ve said this before: I wouldn’t kill to write like songwriter Dar Williams, but I’d maim. She has a fine and long body of work, a now substantial discography but interestingly, she’s against being disciplined and productive. I’m obviously paying more attention and notice because I rate her so much but I think she makes these points particularly persuasively.

She makes them in an old interview on Songfacts where am unnamed interviewer presses on the point thisaway:

Songfacts: When you look at this collection, does it amaze you that you’ve accomplished what you have? I don’t want to ask you to brag, but there must be some moment of pride to be able to look at all these songs and re-visit some of your accomplishments over the years. How does it make you feel when you look at the songs that make up this collection?

Dar: Well, when I was in college, I put a stick-it on my computer, which was huge, that said, “Whatever you do is enough.” I had totally lost my mind, and I was coming back from that. So I would say to myself, you know, you’re supposed to do a ten-page paper, if you do one page you’ll get a D+. If you do two pages, you’ll get a C-, or if you do three pages you’ll get a C-. So that’s all better than an F, so why don’t you do a page?

And it was really, enormously helpful to me. And then a friend of mind was kind of coming back from her lost moment, and I put the stick-it on her computer, and she took a very playful approach to this paper, really appreciating the fact that she wasn’t writing about something very tangible, and just giving it a very playful approach. And she got an A. Her professor said he read it for his wife. It was like, by letting the pressure go and allowing herself to do what she could in that moment, she released a sort of joy in the meaning of the whole assignment.

So it’s like I have a little stick-it on my inner computer that says “Whatever you do is enough.” And I don’t force lines, and I don’t force myself to write every day, and somehow out of that came seven albums that don’t, to me, feel forced. And that’s the only thing I’ll boast about is that there’s nothing about it that to me sounds like I said, “I have to write for 2 hours a day,” with lines where there were no inspiration. I felt it when I wrote it. And I think that experience coming back from being totally insane and putting that stick-it on my computer was a good beginning to a less forced work ethic.

Dar Williams – Songfacts (3 November 2010)

Be sure to read the whole piece: this is all she says on productivity but it’s a wide-ranging interview and she’s smart across it all.

Thanks to @groggy for pointing me at this.

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