How to Work with Creative Ease
I’m going to share with you some important lessons pertaining to what I’ve discovered about what we enjoy & what we loath in our creativity (and in life).
Once I had this ‘aha’ moment, it changed the way I looked at my approach to creating.
Many of us get stuck at some point in the songwriting process before getting anything across the finish line & I’ve found one of the major triggers in getting blocked.
I discovered this secret in an odd way, so to explain it to you, I’ll have to share a bit more about myself. It’s something I’ve been dealing with for quite a while and it’s been both frightening & at times embarrassing.
I suffer from a pretty severe panic disorder that has manifested into too many awful symptoms to discuss in this blog without getting completely off topic. (Stay with me though, there is a point to all this).
In 2010, quite out of the blue, I developed a crippling fear of driving on freeways. I knew it made no sense to suddenly feel this intense fear, but a switch went off in my brain like a splinter in the mind. I would literally have nightmares of waking up in my car, driving 70 mph down the freeway having no idea how I got there. Of course I would burst awake in a cold sweat.
About a year ago I had to drive from Denver to Iowa City (where I am living at the time of this post). I agonized about each lane switch, on ramp, off ramp, overpass, and those moments of feeling pure claustrophobia.
Not long after this, something clicked for me. Something that I’d be able to use in other aspects of my life, and now I’ll share that with you.
Notice that the things that are easy in your life are processed as 1 simple task while the things you dread fill your head with all kinds of seemingly complicated details.
Let me give you an example:
Let’s say a friend asked me to meet you for lunch 15 minutes out of town. To my friend, there is no second thought. He simply thinks “right, I’ll drive over to this cool new Sushi place”.
On the other hand, this is what is going on in my head.
“Oh great, that means I have to get on the freeway. Is a semi truck going to run me off the road when I try to get on?”
“How many lane changes will I have to make?”
“How many freeway changes will require me to be in the fast lane?”
“Are there any scary overpasses?”
“Will I have a freak out & have to turn around and go home, leaving my friend high & dry?”
“What is the parking going to be like? Will I get lost searching for parking?”
and on and on.
As you can see, the way my mind processes a simple drive for lunch is FAR different than the average person. Thankfully I am beginning to overcome this fear by leaps & bounds.
So, how does this apply to music?
When you get stuck on your music, you aren’t thinking of things as one little chunk (create a breakdown). Instead, you are projecting a disaster into your future (like I did with the driving). You may be thinking:
“This part of the song is too complicated to accomplish”
“How long does this break have to be?”
“What sounds do I use & which do I remove for a proper breakdown”
“Crap, now I have to create chord changes on every track for this break. That’s just overwhelming”
“I have to design a new sound to add an additional dynamic. Designing the perfect sound is really hard”
“I don’t know how to create a massive swoosh at the end?”
By this time, you have psyched yourself out before you even started. You brain is expecting failure or at the very least, a confusing & unpleasant experience.
Can you see why you would get blocked?
On the other hand, maybe you are great at getting an 8 bar groove going. Even though there are a lot of details involved in creating a drum riff, bassline & a hook of some sort, you simply think of it in your mind as “creating a groove”. No fear there, you’re just having a mess about.
When writing this blog, I go through both phases. The flow & the blocks. Today I am in the flow. In my head and on my “To Do” list, it is simply “Write a blog”. The details aren’t even really considered. I had the subject in mind & just knew that I had enough to say to get through it without getting stuck.
I am internalizing this vibe so I can reboot it in the future.
How can you clear your creative blocks?
1. Identify what thoughts are running through your head. How many steps do you perceive it’ll take to get from A to Z?
2. Write down the way your mind processes the tasks that need to be completed.
3. Highlight all the steps & negative thoughts that create stress for you.
4. Write down 10 ways you can make each step easier for yourself. Some answers may sound ridiculous. Write it down anyway.
Don’t look outside yourself. You are a problem solving machine when you allow yourself to be.
5. Return to your list daily adding to the list until you find some solutions.
6. When you find some solutions that work for you, start putting it into action until the habit is no longer stressful.
This may take some time, but the more you work through it, the easier it gets.
These steps might seem way too basic, but you’ll be surprised what you can do when you put your brain to work. Also create a habit of recreating your successes in your head. Visualize the songs you finished & begin to think of those successes as 1 process instead of all the little details. When in your writing mode, try to stay in the moment. What you are actually doing in the moment is nearly always less stressful than you are telling yourself its going to be.
Templates & tools
It helps tremendously to save any tools you create that simplifies a songwriting process for you. No need to reinvent the wheel. When you think of writing a song you might break it down something like this.
1. Create a looped groove that sounds exciting and fresh to me
2. Create an intro
3. Introduce chord structure & bass
4. 1st break down
5. Introduce a new melody or counter melody
6. 2nd breakdown
7. Peak energy of song
8. small break
9. Stripped down groove
Any tools and templates to help through this process will not only be a great timesaver, but will also turn something that was once stressful to something you find fun. This is the reason I created my Master Template. It has turned the most stressful aspect of songwriting in to a lot of fun & has greatly improved my output. Grab the free version I made available to assist you.
“Write new tune”
Doesn’t that sound more calming then the chaotic thoughts you allow to run through your head? Keep coming to that & when you get stuck, don’t try to figure out how others did it, try to see if you can come up with your own way. This will give you the benefit of developing your own sound instead of copying someone else. It’s also a huge step toward building your songwriting confidence.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for learning from others, but don’t turn it into a crutch & allow yourself to stop thinking.
You have creative genius in you & the world needs you to harness it.
Next, tune your brain on how to approach music projects that seem too big.
Happy Music Making,