Delayed Gratification

Every once in a while I dream about a song that’s never been written.  Sometimes I think it’s a really good song.  But no matter how good it is, if I don’t write it down, I’ll forget it.


I never cease to be amazed when a vivid idea playing in my head vanishes twenty minutes after I wake up.  Sometimes I’ll remember it again, but most of the time it’s just gone like it was never there.  Luckily, my notation skills are such that I can usually get it on paper before I lose it, and then it’s mine.


But on Saturday mornings I take a day off for Shabbat.  I refuse to write anything down.  And that’s what happened with my latest song.


It was a REALLY good one, and I got most of it in the dream.  As I lay in the bed, half asleep the rest of it came to me.  I was ecstatic, but I knew I was in trouble.


I had to remember the song until the evening when I allow myself to write again.  Should I have broken the rules?  I could have, but I felt it was more important to hold to my principles and abide by whatever happened.


So as I lay there I analyzed the song.  I memorized intervals, rhythms, words.  I created mnemonics to recite in my head all day.


I kept the song for a couple of hours.  Then I stoped thinking about it while I played a game with my son.  By the end of the game, the song was gone!


I struggled with the mnemonics and I recovered something of what I’d dreamed.  But the thing I’d heard in my dream was perfect, and if one detail was off, I’d have to supplement it with something inferior.  I continued to wrestle with the memory.


I struggled all day, and two or three versions of the song began appearing in my head.  They were like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.  Which ones would fit together the best?


By the time the sun finally set and I had a chance to write the song down, I had two or three versions to choose from.  I went back and forth between them.  After a day or two, I settled on a version that I really loved.


Here’s the kicker:  If I’d written down the original version of the song, I would have stuck with it.  Instead, I got confused and came up with a better version.  And there’s the lesson of the day.


Things that slow us down, keep us from getting what we want, can be a good thing.  Sometimes the technology that provides us instant gratification and acknowledgment may be short-circuiting a process that could provide quality.  Sometimes it’s good to have to slow down.


In my case, just one day delay resulted in a far better song.  Take a listen and see if you agree.


News From a Jazz Musician Who Writes Books

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Adam Cole is a Jazz Musician Who Writes Books.  Fantasy author, music educator and performer, Adam chats weekly on the subject of listening, creativity and living your best life.  To take a quiz on what kind of music warrior you are, please visit

1 comment

  • Dave


    Guitar! Jaslyn! Daughter singing! Worth the wait.

    Guitar! Jaslyn! Daughter singing! Worth the wait.

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