Artist developmentSongwriting

Unlocking creativity: The Walt Disney Formula in Songwriting

If you are a creative, and I assume many of you are, you have certainly had situations of mental blocks, doubts, too much pressure and frustration. These negative situations are sometimes necessary within the process of artistic growth and improvement. Often, they are simply unnecessary barriers, that can be easily overcome.

Today I´d like to give you some valuable insights into managing your creativity more successfully.

3 Walts, 3 Rooms

Walt Disney, who has not only created a true creative empire with his many movie projects over many years, but had also been an innovator within the film industry, once brought to life a method that allows for ideas to spin off and be set to reality one step at a time. I am referring to the so called “3 Walts and 3 Rooms” theory.

There was not one Walt Disney…well actually- yes there was only one, but Walt split himself into 3 different personalities within. Those were:

Walt– the Dreamer

Walt– the Realist

Walt- the Critic

All three Walts learned to look at topics from different angles and without disrupting one another. The three Walts not only worked independently one from the other, but also had their own offices (rooms). Whether you have actual rooms to work in, or mental ones doesn’t really matter!

The Dreamer

Creativity is often rooted in curiosity and daydreaming. There was a room for brainstorming, where the dreamer would shoot with ideas and visions, regardless of rhyme or reason. This room was like a playground, where anything was possible, no limits, no restrictions, no nay-sayers allowed. “Dreamer Walt” would spend quite some time in there, until he felt like he´s had enough. A songwriter would typically use this room to collect words, sentences, pieces of melodies…without ever putting them into a certain context just yet. They would collect moods, emotions, titles and riffs. They´d play various chords, or hum melodies. They would listen to people, look at the world and scribble down notes.

The Realist

Back to Walt! As soon as “Dreamer Walt” was done, he would hand over his ideas to “Realist Walt”, who would then unlock the doors of the execution room. Within that room, stories were built, ideas would be transported into realistic projects. A songwriter would use that room for storytelling. Looking at the collection of ideas and picking out certain pieces that go well together and then building a storyline and a song skeleton around it. Creativity is still a key ingredient here.

The Critic

This is where the critic sometimes comes lurking…disturbing, being noisy and blocking the poor realist. The realist is not as confident as the dreamer it seems- he gets easily distracted and insecure.

“Critic Walt” however was kept away from both “Dreamer Walt” and “Realist Walt”. He´d let them breathe and would patiently wait for them to hand over their results whenever they felt ready. He would then look at everything from a different angle. Does the material work commercially? Does it really catch peoples attention? Does it trigger emotions? Could it sell well?

A songwriter critic would ask questions like: Does the song make me feel good or bad about something? Does the arrangement stand out? Is the melody catchy? Does it sound to cheesy? The critic would decide whether to work with that song, whether to recycle it -e.g. by asking the dreamer and the realist to work out some similar ideas again – or whether to throw it away.

Keep in mind…

It is important for any songwriter to strictly keep the critic away from the other two alter egos. The critic should look at stuff a couple of days later. He needs distance and neutrality. A fresh mindset. The dreamer and the realist on the other hand each need a surrounding without pressure or specific instructions. You could think of the Dreamer and the Realist as the “Artist” and the “Craftsman”.  They need complete freedom to create! Working towards a prefefined concrete goal might keep those two individuals from doing their very best, limiting their creativity and missing unexpected, interesting aspects, which are often the heart of a good song or any piece of art. It´s those aspects that can´t be planned. They are what every artist chases after.

So, get down to your various Walts. I´m sure you´ll be able to overcome doubts, pressure, frustration and mental blocks easily by handing over your work to the right Walt at the right time!

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