You know that phrase “little hinges swing big doors”?
Sometimes just one small change in your life can turn everything around for your music. In fact it often does.
Today I’m going to give you a tiny hinge which could swing a huge door. Something that helped me sacrifice (at least some of) those things in my life I repeatedly did that held me back.
Think of those things you do that make you feel comfortable. Those activities (or non-activities) which distract you from the long term discomfort, pain and stagnation that avoiding what you secretly know you were put on this earth to do.
- Watching mindless tv
- Playing computer games
- Pointless twiddling of micro details of every track
- Low (or high!) level alcohol or drug consumption
When do you tend to do most of these activities? If you’re anything like me – it tends to be in the evening doesn’t it?
So why is this?
It’s not because you’re not at your day job.
Trust me – I’ve worked for myself for most of my life and even without the job – throughout the day I watched my daily good intentions topple one by one until I was a barely functioning sofa slug who couldn’t even be bothered to find the remote…
Think of your brain as 2 broad areas. (This is a huge oversimplification – but it’s a useful way of looking at it.)
On the one had you have the evolutionarily ancient, automatic, animal part (sometimes known as the lizard brain). It’s by far the biggest and most powerful area. In fact, it controls much of your behaviour, and not just the stuff you don’t think about at all like breathing, digesting, blinking and so on.
Then you have the evolutionarily modern, controlled part of your brain. It’s the part of our brain where your consciousness resides.
It’s what you think of as “you”. Here you think, make conscious decisions and rationalise stuff.
But here’s the problem.
Because the newer part of your brain is newer – it hasn’t had time to develop to the point of being particularly efficient. So it’s very power hungry. It uses an enormous amount of your available resources and consequently gets tired very quickly.
- Lack of sleep / tiredness
- Drugs & alcohol
Will mean it stops working as effectively.
And under certain circumstances while you might believe your behaviour is as a result of a conscious decision you have made by weighing up all available options, what is actually happening is the ancient part of your brain is causing you to do something – and all your conscious mind is doing is rationalising the behaviour.
“I definitely need to try another hundred sounds for that bass line (which is working fine as it is) because I really care about my career. I must go that extra mile to make sure it’s as good as it can be.”
…is probably your prefrontal cortex rationalising the behaviour the ancient parts of your brain want you to do because it’s scared of what finishing this track might mean (like possible criticism etc.)
After a hard day your conscious mind doesn’t have the mental resources to say no to the ancient animal part (which because it’s so ancient has had time to evolve, become very efficient and use minimal energy).
So when you come home from an exhausting day at work and you attempt to do something creative?
You turn on the TV instead. Maybe open a beer, smoke a joint (or whatever your particular vice happens to be.)
And if you do manage to drag yourself to the DAW? You end up checking Facebook, or watch tutorials, or twiddle pointlessly.
(Or all of the above!)
But here’s the REAL killer.
If this happens over and over again, as well as rationalising your behaviour in the moment (like trawling through every available preset to find the “perfect” sound) your conscious mind also starts to find reasons why you can’t do this stuff at all.
I’m a perfectionist…
I’m not cut out for this…”
…and then these “reasons” become self fulfilling prophecies.
You believe you’re lazy, so you act lazy.
(Yes – your unconscious mind will tend to conform to your conscious self image.)
But you’re not lazy.
You’re human. Tired. Stressed. Annoyed. Or all of them. (if your day job was anything like the one I had for a spell!)
So how do you make sure your prefrontal cortex is in control when you make music?
Well here’s just one suggestion I give to all of my students.
The tiny hinge which swings a huge door.
Take your day and shift it forward by just one hour.
Simply go to bed 1 hour earlier and get up 1 hour earlier. And make music in that hour in the morning before you go to work.
Now I know this seems almost too simple.
But if you can do it (remember simple isn’t necessarily easy!) it creates certain conditions in your life which support your creativity in the studio.
- You are making music when you have the mental resources available, employ willpower & finish that track.
- You are making music when you have the mental resources to make the difficult decisions and finish that track.
- You will make music before everyone else wakes up = less distractions.
- You have one less hour at the end of the day to do what the ancient part of your brain will want you to do (conserve resources, be safe and check Facebook!)
You are effectively giving your dream 5 hours a week.
In terms of your brain they are 5 of your best hours. Hours in which you are likely to get 2x, 3x or 4x more music done in the time you would at night.
Now I know this flies completely against the traditional view of the music producer burning the midnight oil to make beats.
And certainly if you currently believe you are a “night owl” (like I did for years) you might think this won’t work for you. But you ain’t gonna know unless you try it!
Sure, you might be better at night. There are people who work like that. But this could easily just be a belief (it was for me!)
At first it might not work – it might be difficult. But in my experience once you get used to it, and stick at it – it does for many. The key is to transplant the time you have at the end of the day to stay safe and attach it to the front end when you are best able to be daring!
It comes down to answering this question…
What are you prepared to sacrifice to make music your life?”
So I’ve helped a lot of folks make changes like this with spectacular results, so please go ahead and share your experiences and challenges with this “tiny hinge” in the comments and let me help you make it too…