Sometimes the pressure to create can get the better of you. Or maybe you just hit a block and have tried and tried to create and nothing useable comes out of your sessions. Then all the negative thoughts come into your mind. Wondering if you made the right choice, what if the magic within you is all gone? What if I’m just not good enough?
It’s all garbage and you’ve just hit a rut. Don’t allow these thoughts to play on your confidence. Do not allow them to overshadow your passion.
You aren’t alone. Every songwriter, producer, and musician has hit this point at one time or another. It is actually pretty common and a normal part of the process.
There are things that you can do to get over the hump and get back on track.
If you are ready to get out of the rut, grab your shovel and let's start digging our way out.
Clear Your Mind
Get out and go for a walk. Inspiration is all around us if we actually take the time to look. If not in your neighborhood, take a drive to the outskirts of town or even a park. Sit alone and don’t think about your deadlines, obligations, or any of the negativity. Just stop. Music has a flow. So does everything in life. Sometimes it is beyond our control. Like the flow of water. It may have a designated path but the way it chooses to travel to get there isn’t necessarily consistent. Your brain is able to create when its been reset. Refreshed. By removing yourself from the environment and shifting your focus on to something else you’ve expanded your possibility for inspiration and experience that could influence your music and ability.
Never forget to take a break. Just walk away for a moment. If you stay at it for too long you are likely to burn out.
Keep in mind not only your mental health but your physical health. Fatigue, eye strain, and yes even sitting in the same position for too long can play on your physical health which of course is tied to your mental health.
Get Out Of Your Box
Go spend some time listening to music. Not music that you already know. Not even the same genre that you typically listen to. Go to YouTube and type in a genre that you would never listen to. Don’t just cringe because its different or you don’t like it.
Critique it. What would you have done differently? What would make that track better? Or even be surprised when you hear something you like and want to try and expand on.
Another way to get out of your box is to collaborate. Sharing and bouncing ideas off of others. Seeing the fire in someone else may re ignite the fire within you. Ask those around you if they play an instrument or make electronic music.
You don’t even have to be face to face or in the same room. There are a number of outlets and opportunities for collaboration. Check out user forums, groups, and even local classified ads.
Change Your Scenery
Give your space a creative makeover. Looking at the same old stuff day after day may have taken away from the original happiness you once felt within your creative environment.
- Keep it clean.
How long has it been since you have actually gotten rid of the dust and debris? If you are surrounded by clutter in your environment, it will play a factor on your mind as well. Grab a trash bag and get rid of any garbage, make those instruments and your gear shine like new again.
- Personalize your space.
After all, it is your space. Who or what inspired you? Get a poster. A sticker. Your interior colors and decor should make it obvious who's space it is. Be yourself. Let it reflect in your creative space.
This cheap and easy change can bring out the darkness of corners, illuminate your workspace and make it seem larger. Rope lights can be used to outline your desk or rack space. Changing an old generic light bulb to a new incandescent bulb can remove that dull look.
- Get Organized.
Clusters of notebook paper. Ugh. Makes anyone cringe. A cool way to jot down notes without junking up your space. Dry Erase rolls that stick to almost any surface. Clipboards, desktops, cabinets, walls, and doors. No longer do you have to mount a dry erase board. Just remove the paper from the backside and stick it anywhere.
Works just like a dry erase board. Remove the old notes with a wipe and make new notes.
Making sure that your posture isn’t poor plays a factor in your performance and overall morale. Making simple adjustments to ensure your chair is level with your desk that your “go to” tools are within arm's length distance and adjusting your monitor to eye level.
The bottom line is that you should feel comfortable in your space. It should motivate and excite you as well as be organized to allow you to move about and know where everything is with quick access. Functionality and personality. Reaching into a box of tangled wires to find the one you need causes a loss in interest and momentum.
Learn a New Skill
The internet is loaded with tools to help you expand on your skills. Motivation from learning can be exciting and very driving.
This can mean returning to the basics. Music Theory. Songwriting. Composition.
Even learning a new and obscure instrument. Who doesn’t laugh a little when playing an old school recorder. Ever thought about a Kazoo solo? Of course, it’s not a serious endeavor. It's supposed to be light-hearted and fun. It’s a great place to start that could end up leading to something else.
Not sure where to start? Below you will find links to some tutorial videos and other learning material.
Buy New Gear
Buying new, or new to you, gear can generate an excitement and instill the urge to want to rip open the box and try it out. There are numerous places that sell used gear for dirt cheap.
For the electronic musician or beat creator get a new instrument or effect plugin.
There are dozens free online
Remember Your Goals
Do you remember why you started to begin with? Are the goals you set then still the same? Have you achieved them?
Re focus and comprise new goals and things you want to try or things you want to complete. Self-discipline is a must in this industry. You are to blame for your own failure and you are the one who conquered every challenge. You determine your own outcome.
Make a daily list consisting of 3 items you want to accomplish before the day is over.
Make them realistic and obtainable. Keep them in sight. Every time you finish a task, cross it off of the list. While it may seem silly your body has its own chemical reward system and something just as simple as crossing off an item from the “to do” list causes that chemical to release and makes you feel good. Can you guess what it is?
Dopamine is one of our body’s neurotransmitters. It is key in behavior, cognition, motivation, and reward. In other words, it helps tell your body when you’ve done something good, and promotes our brains to remember what we did that was good and repeat to get the reward again.
So go ahead, try the list. Complete the list and enjoy the motivating rewards of your efforts.
To stay motivated, remind yourself where you have come from. Dig out the first track you ever made and compare it to your most recent. Through hard work, time that has passed, experiences, lessons learned along the way. Being face to face with your own progression can light the fire to want to continue.
Have you made an impact on someone's life? Taught someone else a thing or two that helped them better themselves? Contributed an idea or skill to someone who maybe had lost there motivation? Realize your own success.
Take It From Those Who Knows, Ask A Pro
And to finish us off on this topic here is what my network of musicians, bedroom producers, recording engineers and beat creators had to say when asked, “How do you stay motivated when producing music?”
“Knowing that what i do has the power to influence someone life.”
“By giving myself time I between instrumentals so that I don't get burnt out.”
“I love what I do, get compensated fairly, and work with amazing artists and visionaries on a regular basis.”
“I started later in life (around 24), so I had a lot of catching up to do. This is/was a lot of work, so I don't stay motivated continuously. There are periods when I lose interest completely and stop producing music or playing instruments. At some point, I will listen to a well-produced song that impresses and inspires me, which reminds me that this is something I want to achieve myself. I go through the same cycle with producing, playing instruments and painting. Periods of intense studying, production and experimentation, followed by a 'sabbatical'. Every time I go through this cycle, my knowledge and skills improve and the process shifts from being work to just being fun. In other words, I don't 'do' something specific to 'stay' motivated. Either you are motivated to do something or you are not. It's difficult to be motivated all the time, but that's ok. The important thing is to never give up completely.”
“Listening to new music, deconstructing and analyzing my favourite songs, taking breaks, trying different styles, reading up on and learning theory and production techniques, sampling, enjoying and engaging in different past-times.”
“Actually, I'm not motivated a lot of time. But I always get back, so far.”
“I make sure I am developing various skill sets. I'm not a producer but a mix engineer and sound designer. I do make my own music and I have produced an EP and demos for various bands but production isn't my focus.”
“Sound design allows me to explore DSP (digital signal processing) coding, which is a very deep topic that will certainly keep one busy. I also create and sell soundbanks for various plugin synthesizers, which would fall under the job of sound designer.”
“Mix engineering is my favourite aspect of production so that's what I focus on. Working with different genres can help keep things interesting. I think that if you are going to work in the audio industry then having a broad musical taste can help a lot.”
“Listen to new music. Listen to new genres. New gear can be motivating.”
“Other than that, it might be overlooked but paying attention to personal health should keep you motivated.”
“I create achievable goals. I am motivated by collaboration, interaction, reaction, and validation through performing the produced music live.”
“Deadlines go a long way to ensuring productivity. Whether they are self imposed, or requirements of a professional setting, there is nothing like the feeling of crunch time to keep things moving.”
“For me, the music is always happening in my head. It’s the discipline of sitting down and working on ideas in a more physical form that’s difficult. My local library has a recording studio in it. If I reserve time in the studio, it forces me to prepare for a recording/mixing session. External commitments help."
Before you lose your motivation, avoid burn out by taking breaks. Keeping your health in check will allow your mind to function at full capacity. Changing up your space, collaborating, going for a walk, buying new gear. All of these things can help keep you motivated. Just like any job we need to walk away and have time away from it in order to return to it refreshed and ready to go. Next time we will dive in deep and discuss how to produce music at home.