Playing and residing in the space where creativity flows openly is a reward.
It’s an infinite space where inspiration plus ingenuity meld to become one. When it works, the feeling is magic and utterly indescribable. When the wealth of ideas begins to run low or run dry, it can be alarming and discouraging as an artist.
How do you avoid repeating yourself? How do you fan the embers to build a roaring fire once again? As much as the term “inspirational” is thrown around today, it is often misconstrued.
When I set aside time to work on a creative endeavor everyday, that is motivation — an expenditure of personal will and energy to compete a task or goal. Inspiration, although similar, I would argue, is why creative projects happen. It’s the spark that will keep reigniting your fire. To avoid stagnation over the years, there’s few key techniques that have worked for me.
Write a song to a visual element: This was an exercise I learned from a songwriting class in college. Find a scene from a movie, TV Show, nature footage or whatever is engaging for you.
Once a scene is found, mute the audio and begin to write. Pretend you have been tasked with scoring these particular scenes. The goal is to expand the musical vocabulary and better understand how visuals are entwined with music.
Create something everyday: Even if it’s as simple as humming a melody or playing a small sequence of chords. Just continuing that process everyday will carry it’s own momentum.
Working on one part at a time: Like a Swiss Watch, every musical project has many moving parts. If frustration has set in because say, the right chord changes aren’t springing to mind, working on the primary melody or lyrics may be more productive in the moment. Stubbornness can easily fuel stagnation.
Change your environment: When I really feel overwhelmed or I’m going absolutely nowhere, this is a great reset button during the day. Anything from walking around the block, grabbing a cup of coffee or even driving can make a world of difference. You come back to the creative space with fresh eyes and ears.
Start with a theme: Regardless of writing lyrics or playing an instrument, this is a good tactic. For example, if the theme of that writing day is “sad,” what do those chord changes and melodies sound like for me? What musical choices will evoke that theme? What are examples of others sad songs? How are they structured and written?
Have a dedicated notebook for specific projects: This may seem fairly obvious advice, but it’s a life changer. Being able to properly organize my creative thoughts has helped tremendously, not just in music, but overall. In here, you can organize ideas and also journal about the process. It’s a great way to get abstract, creative feelings on the table.
Time yourself: This is not a tactic I use often. However, it can be a good test to determine, under a mock timetable and pressure, how will I perform? Will I be able to create anything in 45-60 minutes. Sometimes, when the clock is ticking, that is the spark that will ignite a firestorm of ideas.
It then becomes an exercise in shortening your reaction time. Not only can I come up with good ideas under pressure, it took substantially less time to write them.