Creative endeavors can be extremely uncomfortable and can lead to days, months or year of procrastination & put your art on stand still.
No matter where you are in your path, this discomfort can destroy your momentum and once this momentum is lost, every day becomes more difficult to get started on a new project or finish one you have previously started.
What is important for you to understand is that both productivity and procrastination are a mindset.
Most of your excuses are in the category of time, lack of knowledge, fear of failing, too many choices, not enough choices, thinking your tools aren’t professional enough, thinking you don’t have any good ideas or lack of inspiration.
Let’s break down some of these common things that tend to hold creative people back.
The truth is, if you have the basic tools to create, there is really nothing stopping you but excuses & preferences.
Some of the basics you need are a Computer, a DAW (Digital audio workstation), basic effects (EQ, Compression, Reverb, Delay, Filter), a Synth or synth VST, a tool to program drums with & some type of sampling tool.
Most, if not all of these basic tools come with any DAW you choose. There are also plenty of great free tools as well. So let’s dispel the myth that you don’t have enough. You have access to more tools for extremely low cost or free than any time in history.
Sure, you may not have every tool you prefer, but remember that they are all just tools to express something you’ve got in your head. Your ideas are always more important than the specific tools.
Lastly, fresh ideas often come from using whatever you’ve got, instead of focusing on gear envy. We all see amazing studios with more than we could even want, but in my experience, I find those with the most tools tend to have a more difficult time choosing where to start & thus finish a lot less.
A lack of knowledge tends to paralyze a lot of creative people. The fear of doing something wrong is often more powerful than the desire to create. The more you watch the “pros” on YouTube, the less confident you feel in your own ability to create anything of value.
When you create for the approval of others, you rarely let your own voice shine through. You become afraid that your own ideas are subpar. The truth is, they probably will be in the beginning, but if you aren’t willing to face the discomfort of developing your voice, who’s voice are you developing?
I’ve fallen down the path of creating for other people. I even convinced myself that is was my voice. It’s a real drag when you realize that what you’ve been creating for years isn’t your real voice but a copy of what you think people want. Remember, people don’t know what they want until you show them.
Anyone who does anything unique & original had to develop that sound. That is not to say that you shouldn’t have influences. Everybody has influences & anyone who says they don’t is lying. We are all standing on the shoulders of those who came before us. Just make sure your influences speak to you, not because they are popular but because they touch your soul in some way.
When you know your direction, the knowledge will come from practice, training, mistakes & happy accidents. When you aren’t sure how to do something, imagine how someone you respect might accomplish it with your tools. It doesn’t matter if you are correct. What matters is that you are using your own brain to problem solve.
Obviously there are times when you’ll just want to look up how to do something & that’s fine but don’t avoid exploring your own problem solving skills. This is how new techniques are discovered.
Think of your lack of knowledge as an advantage. You can break rules you didn’t even know were there. Keep a bit of a punk rock attitude & if something sounds good to you, trust it.
Time is one of the biggest excuses for not doing what you say you want to do I’m not going to say that this is never a legit excuse, but, by & large, it’s just an excuse.
Typically the lack of time excuse is just a disguise to avoid discomfort. Some reasons we may use time as an excuse is:
I don’t have time to make music the way I prefer.
I don’t have a perfectly quiet and uninterrupted environment.
I haven’t set up that piece of gear I’ve been wanting to use.
I don’t want to sacrifice my habitual daily rituals.
I probably won’t be able to accomplish anything anyway.
If we are willing to let go of comfort, none of these excuses really hold up. In most situations, if there is enough will, there is a way.
This one can be tough to define & it can really trip you up as a music producer. In my experience, it’s that sense that something is missing or something doesn’t feel right about sitting down to create.
Maybe you feel uninspired & that you have nothing to say today. Maybe you are so out of practice that changing your routine feels completely unnatural & thus really uncomfortable.
This is normal. The brain doesn’t like stepping out of the comfort zone of routine, so it will fight you. Until making music becomes a new routine, it will be difficult to sit down in your studio. Your brain will come up with a million things that are “more important” to do. Anything that brings you back to safety & comfort.
You have to be very aware of what you avoid due to discomfort & the only way through it is to seek discomfort & to thrive on it. Try to do 3 things a day that you normally avoid due to discomfort. Building your discomfort tolerance is just about the most powerful thing you can do for your creative life.
This is why I started taking cold showers. I HATE the cold. I keep my place at 74F & avoid the cold as much as possible. Cold showers are definitely uncomfortable, but taking on that discomfort is invigorating & builds momentum to doing other things I find uncomfortable. I just think “The cold shower was way more uncomfortable, I’ve got this!”.
When you are willing to face discomfort, the excuses go away. It just becomes you & what you want to accomplish.
Deadlines are one of the best ways to push past the discomfort of creating. You don’t have to be ready. You don’t get more knowledge of more tools. You have a limited amount of time to figure this out with the resources you’ve got & get it done. No excuses.
I find this to be a really powerful tool when my motivation, energy & comfort level are low.
When I am battling lack of good ideas & inspiration, one of the best things I can do is just tell myself “Alright, let’s suck for the next hour”. Sucking is no longer an excuse to not sit down and do the work. In fact, I allow it.
The 4 Hour Chef author shared advice he got from a ghostwriter with over 50 bestselling books. When asked how he is able to write so much he said “I write 2 crappy pages every day”. If this practice leads to bestselling books, perhaps it can lead to chart topping music.
I can definitely say that when i’m in the zone of daily practice, it’s amazing what comes out of me. In fact, some of the most uninspired crappy starter ideas often become my favorite tracks.
Don’t be afraid to suck. Allow it & you will also reap the rewards
Comfort is the enemy of art. Those who create a lot of great work have built the habit of working regardless of how they feel or what circumstances make doing the work inconvenient. Of course you should set yourself up to have more comfortable days when creating, but don’t make it a requirement, or an excuse to not do your creative work.
I hope this message finds you at the right time & set you up for better music habits and more success.
Happy music making!