I recently came across this list of 101 habits that can help the aspiring writer. A lot of these suggestions are good for the academic or student writer, but I was also stuck by how much of the advice was similar to what I recommend to my composition students. Some translate perfectly to composition, such as setting goals, keeping a schedule, and rewriting. Others may need a little tweaking to make work for a composer. For example, I generally wouldn’t advise a student composer to work while listening to other music. Then again, that might make for an interesting exercise, put some music on that is unrelated in style to the piece you’re composing and try to draw elements from the recording into the new context of your project.
Number 23 on the list, “be concise” is good advice for composers. I find that many of my composition students tend to try to put too many ideas into their composition, rather than developing the themes they already have. I also tend to recommend writing introductions to your compositions last (number 29), since it helps to know what you’re going to set up in your intro before you start it.
It’s an interesting read and gives me some thoughts on improving my own writing and composing. I’ve recently started composing a new piece that I think will end up as a bossa nova for big band, so perhaps I should pay attention to advice number 1 and stick with my schedule and get back to work on it.