These days, it is tough to stay creative while juggling business, fun, and life in general. Over the years, I have developed a few habits that have saved me time, money, and ultimately made it easier to get down to the business of creating/working faster and with fewer obstructions. Without further ado, here are seven things that any creative can do to make their life a bazillion times easier.
1. Keep a daily schedule
This one may seem like a given, but I see many producers and musicians that just "go with the flow" and don't organize their lives. This makes it just about impossible to become very successful. Keeping a daily schedule will allow you to partition your life into segments, allowing to focus on each segment wholeheartedly. I would suggest finding your most creative time of the day, then build everything else around that. Ever since I started doing this my life has become way more enjoyable in and out of the studio.
Taylor Pearson, a business strategies and mental models researcher states "Another reason that morning routines seem to be so common among creatives is that they create a rock in what feels like a raging river. Whether you have a project going badly, are moving cities, or are changing jobs, a morning routine gives you something to hold onto—a sense of normalcy to root yourself." 1 And he is right! Keeping a daily routine anchors you to your own workflow, fun time, and life as a whole.
2. Create templates
Another given. All professional creatives use templates. Every professionally successful creative I have ever known uses custom templates that they created and have refined over and over again. There are many reasons why you should use templates, but I am just going to cover one. And I think this is the most important one...Time.
Not so much time it takes to finish a project, but more like the amount of time it takes to get "in the zone" or what I like to call "Launch Time." Say your watching a movie or listening to music and, BAM! Inspiration strikes... You jump up, run to the studio, pull up the software and uugggghh.. you have to make an instance, then load it with plug-ins, or import some media for your video edit, or even set up your instrument effects loop.. Any of those scenarios are removing precious time from your initial spark to the reality of the idea. And we all know how easily an inspirational idea can be completely forgotten or skewed if not acted upon immediately. Our brains are tricky things.
The best way to avoid this is to have your situation set up for the easiest access to creation launch. In other words...templates. If you notice yourself doing the same utility based thing every time you open a session, maybe think about saving a template after you do said utility based thing. Musicians can use pedal boards and midi switchers to do the exact same thing for tones and effects.
3. Shake it up, creatively
So you like to make EDM music. Your favorite artist is ZEDD and you can rock the lights out with Ableton Live, a finger drum pad, and some V.I.s on your Macbook. That's cool, and I am sure you are a hit at the night clubs, but don't stop there! Continue to grow as a musician..go from finger drumming to playing electronic drums - that way you will actually be able to play real drums as well! Take your midi-controller skills and apply them to a piano, and don't ever stop doing that! You may end up in a situation where you DJ clubs on Saturday nights, and play drums in the studio for major records and the like getting paid $300 a day!
Learn new mediums, get out of your comfort zone (mind you I didn't say abandon!), acquire new skills. This can only help you in your artistic life. I am not saying to overload yourself with all the roles, let professionals be in charge of your branding, of course. You don't want to be the DJ, Photographer, Video Producer, Graphic Designer, PR, Agent, etc...that would take away from your own expertise, but understanding what they do is invaluable in the way of communication, project synergy, and even pricing and work scope. To clarify, if you know how the video editor is doing what he is doing, you will most like understand the value better and thus be able to negotiate pricing more effectively.
4. Get creative about being blocked
I know some of you are looking at the header to this section and scratching your head. Let me explain. It has happened to all of us and will happen again.. I'm talking blocks. We all get them and we all hate them. What I have noticed myself doing when I get blocked out is start trying new things, artistically. I basically throw caution to the wind and let my brain go wild with something until I can get the mojo flowing where it needs to be again.
There are a couple of fellas who made an art out of providing inspirational challenge designed to take creative people out of their blocks. I am talking about Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, masters in their own respective fields as well as creators of the uniquely strange card deck called "Oblique Strategies," a card deck designed to help creatives, especially musicians, overcome blocks. Brian Eno recalls "The Oblique Strategies evolved from me being in a number of working situations when the panic of the situation - particularly in studios - tended to make me quickly forget that there were others ways of working and that there were tangential ways of attacking problems that were in many senses more interesting than the direct head-on approach."2 I think he was being pretty creative about being creative when he and Schmidt created this amazingly creative deck for creatives.
5. Take a lot of breaks
This one may seem counter productive, but taking breaks often is not only healthy for your mind and body (sitting in a chair all day looking at a screen, or focusing on a small section of canvas all day, can become extremely fatiguing for the mind and will ultimately lead to less productivity 3. There is plenty of research to back this claim up, so don't kill yourself trying to make your art!
6. Don't worry so much about details, instead worry about feel and emotion
A lot, and I mean A LOT of creatives have this problem...myself included. I cannot stress this one enough! Art is about resonance and emotion, not really so much about the details, granted highly detailed art is amazing! But as a whole the idea of art is to speak to the consumer of the art's soul, to resonate with them in a way that is unique and engaging. Don't let the details get in the way of your relationship with your fan base!
I have poured and poured over songs that I thought everyone was going to love, because I loved them. So I toil and toil.. and I am never satisfied with the snare or some obscure sound in the mix, and I tweak it..Then i repeat this process over and over again until I end up somewhere completely away from where my vision for the song was..And guess what, now I am burnt out and don't have the energy to get it back. Plus, my eyes and ears are fatigued, and my back hurts from sitting down for the last 5 hours. Total wasted of a session, all because a stupid snare sound that the majority of the people that hear it will never care if it has more body or less.
It is good to pay attention to detail, and there is some stiff competition out there when it comes to quality, but if you are a true artist you can make a great art that speaks to people without tweaking every little detail. Besides... sometimes character shows up in the most unlikely places, so let go of the magnifying glass and take the project in as a whole and see how it speaks to you when making decisions.
7. Tap into your emotions - don't hide them, let them guide your inspiration
This is an easy one that seems hard at first. Art is a reflection of it's creator and people want to connect with the creators of their favorite art and the most effective, yet passive way to connect with them is through feelings. If a user of your art has a feeling that comes up during admiration of your creation, then you just hooked them emotionally.
The best way to this is to create with emotion. If you just went through a bad break-up, financially hurting, in love, or angry at the government express it in your art and you will connect to more people through it, which can be an amazing feeling! Think about all the movies that made you cry, or songs that seemed to be actually talking to you through the radio about what you were feeling right then. These were the pieces of art that impacted and resonated with me the most, and I am sure it is the same in your life as well.
So there you have it! Seven things you can do, inside your mind, that will help you organize your creative life! This isn't news to some, but to everyone else...If you give these seven things a try and apply them with diligence, there is absolutely no way you can fail...unless you just suck at being creative!
1. Pearson, T. (n.d.). The Perfect Morning Routine. Retrieved May 25, 2017, from https://taylorpearson.me/morning/
2. Eno, B. (n.d.). Introduction. Retrieved May 25, 2017, from http://www.rtqe.net/ObliqueStrategies/OSintro.html
3. Brief diversions vastly improve focus, researchers find. (2011, February 8). Retrieved May 25, 2017, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110208131529.htm