If you’ve been producing for any time at all, once you get over the initial learning curve, a lull may start to set in. This can be damn scary. You’ve got all the skills, but now you have no drive when you sit down at the DAW. I’ve been there.
Mastering your creative process is a life-long journey and you’ll pick up strategies along the way. Here are a couple of pitfalls I and other producers have made, and how to get yourself out of them.
1. Stop thinking so much
For me, self deprecating thoughts can kill. I’ll be getting into a track when suddenly I’m overwhelmed by thoughts of self doubt. “That synth sounds lame…the drums are weak…what kind of melody is that?” Suddenly, I’m questioning everything, and all momentum comes to a screeching halt. I find myself thinking too much about the outcome, instead of enjoying the creation process. I think too much about what people will think about it. I have to tell those thoughts to just shut up, there’s no way around it but to just ignore them. The less you let those thoughts have any control over you, the less they’ll have
A word to the wise, do let yourself be critical of your music to an extent. If something sounds bad and you can fix it, fix it. Learn to distinguish between the imaginary outsider who hates your music and the self-correcting critical thinking voice that stops you from producing 180 BPM Happy Hardcore. Just don’t let critical thinking stop you from doing something new.
2. Learn to play
When you’re just starting out, its easy to get really interesting and unique results. Your creative process hasn’t been solidified and you haven’t been producing long enough to even have a rut to get stuck in. As you get used to the process of making music it can be easy to get stuck doing the same old thing time after time.
This is especially the case once you start to get some notoriety for your music. You think “well people liked what I did before, so lets do that again, that felt good!” We all want to be liked and I think being known for something is a desire everyone has. But recycling the same sounds and chord progressions does get old.
I challenge you to get back to that place of experimentation with music. Play with sounds just for the fun of it. I can guarantee you will discover a newfound passion for music, and you’ll expand your sound palate too. Besides, if you produce first because you love it and enjoy the process, people will naturally take notice.
3. Shut Your Face…book
Social media, used too casually, can be an enormous distraction and focus-killer. Its much too easy to open your web browser, press “f” and “Enter” and start mindlessly scrolling. All the while passively listening to your track or neglecting to even work at all. There have been studies done that show that it can take up to 17 minutes to regain focus after it’s been lost. So if you’re constantly facebooking, while “working” on your music, you may be stuck in a never-ending cycle of lost focus.
Luckily, there are things you can do to combat this. First, turn off your WIFI. If that’s too much for you, there are two services that I know that can do the job, limiting your access but not severing the connection to the outside world completely.
For Windows, Cold Turkey disables specified websites for an amount of time specified by the user. You can even designate specific blocks throughout the day for unblocked usage, and you can set the use calendar for the whole week, so you know you won’t have to set it again the next day. If you decide to chicken out and try to uninstall while your blocks are initiated, cold turkey will extend your block time for an additional 6 days as a penalty. Harsh, but hey, this is your focus we’re talking about!
For Mac, SelfControl offers site specific blocking as well. Set a timer, and your access will be blocked until it runs out, even if you delete the app.
If these tips are helpful to you, I have a free eBook that you can download called “Motivation as a Music Producer.” Inside are a number of techniques I use to help me stay focused while making music. You can get your copy here.