You may think musical creativity exists and flourishes outside the bounds of habit and structure, but the truth is, you work best when you adhere to a stable routine and a healthy lifestyle.
As a musician at any level – professional, semi-professional, or hobbyist – keeping your creativity flowing and productivity high is important to your success and satisfaction. Just like in any creative field, it’s easy to find yourself in a rut. Being your own boss, or just pursuing musical projects that are important to you, requires discipline and good time-management principles to avoid burnout and maintain motivation.
Though you may tend to think creativity is something that exists and flourishes outside the bounds of habit and structure, truth is it’s a mental process that works best when we adhere to a stable routine and a healthy lifestyle. Follow these tips to maintain a productivity boosting routine.
Between writing, recording, marketing, and performing music, there’s an endless number of tasks on a musician’s plate. You’ll never accomplish all the things you need in a single day – a thought that can be overwhelming. Don’t overload yourself, but don’t give yourself permission to slack off. Instead, set small, reasonable goals for yourself each and every day. This will keep you feeling motivated, delivering a little confidence boost every time you cross something off on your to-do list.
Begin your week by brainstorming everything you could be working on, thinking of your long- to mid-term goals. Then, break that list down into something reasonable you can accomplish day-to-day. If you want to write and record a new song by the end of the month, you could focus on getting a few lines of lyrics down, or reworking a riff that you’re not quite pleased with yet.
If you’re feeling stuck with whatever you’re working on, seek inspiration in other works of art that you admire. Listen to a new album, or read a memoir by a fellow artist you look up to. It may feel like you’re wasting time to engage in any pursuit that isn’t actively associated with your music, but rest assured, this is time well spent. Sitting at your piano in frustration or staring at an empty page in your lyric notebook and trying to force the creativity to come is a waste of time. On the other hand, exposing yourself to interesting new ideas and good art in any form is a great way to summon inspiration and enhance creativity. Analyzing music and art you love is a great creative thinking exercise to help motivate you, and reading books and memoirs by seasoned artists can give you insights into the process you may never have thought of on your own.
Work to improve
Practice is key to whatever you want to accomplish as an artist. Putting in long, hard hours of practice is what got you to where you are in the first place. It’s also the most important tool you have in making yourself better. As part of your daily brainstorming process, think of a skill you’d like to improve and set aside some time in your day to work on it. Though you may get more pleasure from playing the songs you can already perform well, sometimes the most helpful thing you can do is humble yourself and focus on the ones you can’t. Make your practice time as productive as it can be and focus on the areas that really require improvement; music creativity will follow as your skills grow.
Whether it’s taking notes of ideas for lyrics, or recoding a tune you hum into your phone recorder, it’s always helpful to be armed and ready to record and document your thoughts when inspiration strikes. This way, when you sit down and have time to dedicate to creating something, you are already loaded up with ideas to get you started. Keeping a record of your ideas helps you to stay organized and be more productive in your work, and once you’re in the habit of documenting your flashes of inspiration, you’ll be amazed at how often you’re struck with an idea for a lyric or melody as you go about your regular routine.
Take a risk everyday
While this one is a little bit out there, it can really help you push your music. Taking risks doesn’t mean creating totally new genre every week. Instead, just try to get in the habit of being out of your comfort zone. When you take that same philosophy to your writing, practice, playing, or production, you’ll find you’re trying all sorts of things you never did before. You may even like some of them! Fall forward faster, and don’t be afraid to take risks. When you take these risks, or try new things, you’re looking for something that feels like home, not alien. That’s where the magic happens.
John Morabito is a blogger, musician, and contributing author at Rivington Music. When he’s not helping musicians be more productive and effective through recording, marketing, life-hacking, and more, John can usually be found jamming at the Rivington rehearsals studio or exploring his hometown of NYC.
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