Andy Gott

Hand drawn numbers

Be Interesting

21 Jan 2014

“You have to have something interesting to say.” —Composition & Arranging lecturer, Salford University

My university Composition and Arranging lecturer once spent a whole lecture on the idea that all the skill in the world is useless if you have nothing interesting to express with it.

“It’s no use spending all of your time here practicing scales and becoming technically virtuosic,” he said, “because if you don’t have experiences and build a diversity of knowledge, you’ll have nothing interesting to say.”

This is certainly true of expressive endeavours like composition, improvisation or painting. Without substance such things are dull, lifeless carcasses of technique. It might be less obvious for activities like writing code, but I think it’s the case for all creative output and problem solving.

The knowledge and experience we gain through diverse interests, visiting new places, and spending time with different people allows us to solve problems in ways that are unique to us. The broader our range of experiences, and the more diverse our knowledge, the better we are at creating. We become most interesting at the vertices of our experiences.


These things have to be maintained, I find. During a lesson about keeping time, and maintaining a steady pulse, my bass tutor told me:

“This is like a battery, if you don’t recharge regularly you lose it.” —Bass tutor, Salford University

For me, this is also true for the learning and experiences I need in order to stay creative and keenly interested in the world around me. The battery runs down quickly.

Not only do I need to keep these things up, I also have to maintain the balance of diversity, or else I begin to feel a sense of boredom—worse, boringness—creep in. A foggy, dulled sensation, not unlike insomnia.


We do more studying these days, of a sort, and that’s great. More people with more knowledge is a good thing. My learning over the last year or two, though, has become shallow and ephemeral. I’ll hit on a subject—through a conversation, an article, a tweet, for something I’m making, or simply because it’s been on my mind—and google it, read through a few articles and resources, maybe bookmark a few things (never to return). It’s soon lost, and I know I’ve become less creative and less interesting in conversation.

I think we should make the effort to study and experience some things deeply. Equally, though, I don’t think we should pressure ourselves to have deep or lasting knowledge of every subject we encounter in such an information rich world. As always, balance is key, but it seems that we tend towards the quick hit—we learn just enough and move on—which suggests that an effort should be made to maintain balance. We must consciously push ourselves beyond the point of just enough.

I don’t think it matters what we choose to go into depth with, only that it’s important to do so. When the balance shifts towards quick, ephemeral, surface knowledge we begin to feel like we might float away at any moment. Disconnected, bouncing around, weightlessly, from space to space as the memories from just a few days ago begin to slide away to make room for new ones. Sometimes it’s worth the effort to put an anchor down, get in-depth and make it last.