An interview that really stuck in my mind years ago was one with Bjork where she said that for every good songs, she has to get a thousand bad ones out of her system first, or something like that.
It encouraged me through times when I wasn't happy with my writing. "Never mind," I'd tell myself, "just another 999 bad songs to go before I write a banger."
The same with that Cartier-Bresson quote, that your first ten thousand photos are your worst. It gave me great solace; "Click-click, motherfucker, I'm getting through these photos faster than anyone else!"
The difference between the two though, is that a photo takes a second to make. A song, often much longer.
This week I've put hours and hours into a track I can only describe as "Not Good".
Write a melody. Patch up the modular. Record a few different versions. Write a harmony. Go searching for the perfect drum sample. Layer up some sounds. Get some side-band compression going. Write some extra parts. Crack out a microphone and a few real-world instruments. Realise that the original melody wasn't good.
Realise that the original melody wasn't good.
Now I don't want to get all philosophical about what good is, and how we define quality, I'll leave that to Pirsig. Hopefully we've all got a rough idea about what we want our art to be like, and can recognise when we've done ourselves proud.
In music, you can spend so very long on an idea before realising it's not particularly good, and at that point, it's tempting to keep going. To tough it out. More parts. More studio work. More harmonies. More time wasted on a rubbish idea.
I'm trying to teach myself not to do this. Just break up with the idea quickly, and move on.