If you are like me, you have been sitting in your yoga pants since March 13. Some of the creatives in Europe have been almost home for a month now, and here in the US we are about to be on our second and third week of quarantine.
Some of you might be experiencing financial stress and pressure, you might have lost all shows for the next few months and the feeling of financial insecurity is something that can and will keep you up at night.
Maybe, when this all started, you had a little wish list put together, of things you thought would be fun to do while you are in quarantine, play more guitar or practice piano, work on unfinished songs, make a few tracks and send them to friends, work out and get ripped. But somehow here you are, on the couch watching Netflix (Tiger King), with barbecue chips and a bottle of wine or totally hyped up on coffee, allowing yourself to drift into worst-case scenarios or feeling incredibly sorry for yourself because your tour plans have been moved to the end of the year.
How do we, as creatives, get out of this and use our time in a productive manner? Before I dig into the mental part of this, I want to direct all of you who are experiencing great financial losses to this complete database of resources for musicians who are struggling. PLEASE, look into this if you don't know where else to look.
Also, there is a real thing that happens when you are in financial stress, lets not diminish it. Finnish researchers found that people who reported stressful work or money-related events had an increased risk for having metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that puts you at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. And the risk was increased if people reported several episodes of stressful money-related events. You can read all about that here.
If you have done all this, or maybe got some financial support from your family, or you have some savings and you are ok for the next 2 or 3 months or longer, lets look into how us creatives can pick ourselves back up and use this time wisely.
This is it right now, we are all stuck at home, we can't cowrite in person, we can't jam, perform, (fill in your pain). But people, it is what it is! Just accept it. If you are only thinking about the things you don't have you will just end up being a miserable person, and it's really hard to make music or anything beautiful while being miserable. Give yourself some time to bitch and moan about what is going on in your world right now, and after that, give yourself the exact same time and be thankful of what you do have.
We can't change what is happening in the world, but we can change how we are standing in it. By accepting what is, we can allow ourselves to let it go, if we keep fighting it, hating it, dreading it, it will keep us hostage for as long as we allow it to. If you have roommates, a spouse, a partner, they will unfortunately feel all your mood swings, so get it under control. You need the people who love you now more than ever, so don't be a #$*&^%&*.
Once you decided to accept it, you can take active steps to feel better. Take a walk, do yoga, take a deep breath, make some tea, or hey, wine, it's 5 a'clock somewhere.
2. Be a Student
How about that course of Japanese you've been thinking about, or learning to play the bagpipes? Sounds awesome, but how is this going to creatively add to your career? Make sure you distinguish between what is "for fun" and what is "adding to your toolkit".
I haven't had time to work on my guitar chops for years, because I'm always recording and working on projects, so this is the time to take an hour a day and practice my skills, work with a metronome etc. Once this is all over, this time will greatly add to my toolkit to make bigger and better productions.
Make a list of things that you want to do to ADD to your toolkit, that will make you a better singer, musician, producer, mix engineer, writer. Be realistic and don't shoot yourself in the foot by making a list that is too big too accomplish.
If you are looking for some learning programs online, now is the time, here are some of my faves!
Coursera can help you on your way for all your business courses. You can even get certificates and a degree in marketing, business etc.
Lynda has great started courses for literally everything, from music lessons to starting production courses.
Berklee will help you further your music education. From music theory to production classes and business class.
Youtube well, type in anything specific you want to know and you will find someone explaining it to you for free!
3. Stretch your "comfort-zone"
Since we are already not in our comfort zone, lets take advantage of that. This is a great time to get out of the habits that we think we need to create. Can you only write when there is a producer in the room, or can you only play guitar solos while having 3 shots of whiskey? Lets get out of that thought pattern. Try to start writing songs alone, play along with backing tracks on youtube for a guitar solo at 11am in the morning. Stop thinking your creativity is attached to a "requirement" that you gave yourself years ago.
Also, push yourself. When you keep playing those scales wrong after 10 times in your practice routine, don't give up, keep going. It's gonna feel shitty for a while, are you stuck on that track you wanted to make? Find some tracks that inspire you and keep going. You wanna write a book? Get started and stare at a blank page for 3 hours. Hey, we got plenty of time, so lets take advantage of it. No more excuses.
4. Have a Schedule
Since there is no reason for you to get up at 7am you might not feel the need to set your alarm. Your workout routine is out the window and all your appointments are cancelled so why bother.
This is dangerous territory because you might unintentionally create a new negative habit for yourself. It can take as quick as 8 days to make a new habit so the good news is you can unlearn this one you just started and create a new one.
A lot of songwriters and creatives say you can't force creativity, I personally don't agree. I believe you can create the time and environment for inspiration. And once you are inspired you will be able to create. There is no "set" time of the day for this.
For creatives, 3 hours is usually the magic number for the minimal amount of time you should spend on your music. You need an hour to mess around, you need 30 minutes to be frustrated and the rest of the time you can start formulating your idea. Instead of forcing yourself to work for a set amount of hours, create a 1 or 2 hour inspirational window before a block of creative time, that you can fill up with whatever it is that gets you inspired, laying on the floor listening to music, poetry, watching a documentary, looking at tutorials, whatever.
5. Less social media, more social time
Are you the one who wakes up, reaches for their phone and doesn't let it go till they reach their computer? Honestly, STOP.
If you live in a house with more people, talk to someone. Look them in the eye, be present. And, if you have a phone, use it to FaceTime a friend, do an online cowrite, or an online jam session. Does it really make you feel better looking at the news and checking all your friends pictures with their quarantine story? Really, is anyone quarantine-ing better than you?
Making and writing music often comes from absorbing the world around you, we might not be physically in it right now, but by really deliberately closing yourself off to real human connections you will miss the opportunities to be inspired and creative.
This is the time where people reach for music and art, they find comfort in listening to lyrics they can either relate to or that can make them forget about their worries for a minute. We have a responsibility to show up for them.
So..... no more excuses, lets go!