You have probably heard the cliche “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. In my experience, this is just sometimes not true and here’s why: I love what I do, but sometimes I feel like it’s work that I have to do to build my business and career.
I love what I do, but sometimes I feel like it’s work that I have to do to build my business and career.
Sometimes I feel like I’m acing it, and other times I’m not doing a very good job. There are times in creators’ lives when we do not feel motivated to create, yet we need put something out to meet deadlines. How do you snap out of your funky feels? What do you do to get inspired? A journal article published in the Front Hum Neurosci, (2014) defines inspiration as “…a motivational state that compels individuals to bring ideas into fruition.”
(Side note: before today I definitely couldn’t define inspiration so concisely like that.) It further states that while creators have long argued that inspiration is important to the creative process, it’s not until recently that scientists have been able to investigate this claim.
Every one of us creatives experience creativity burn-out and a lack of inspiration to create, but we do not have the luxury to not create.
In this article, I am sharing with you the things I do to snap out of my feelings of inspirational dryness. Here are seven things that I do to maintain "a motivational state that compels" me to create.
Journaling My Ideas
I give credit to my wife for encouraging me to do this. In the past I would have a lot of burning ideas in my head but I was not accustomed to writing things down. So I would just hold them all in my head until it was time to execute them or let go of them. Journaling is hard for me but I’m getting better at it because it spurs motivation. My brain seems to be running with 1000 ideas while I am not in a position to execute them. What’s worse, I tend to talk myself out of good ideas if I don’t write them down. So instead of analyzing all my ideas, when I get them, I right them down- YES, even the crazy ones. You don’t even need a journal for this, your phone notes app or a good old notepad works well. Two of the most used spaces on my phone are my Voice Memos and Notes. Journaled ideas can be great for motivation when you go back to read through what you wrote.
As I have pointed out in my previous posts, I put my iPhone Voice Memo app to work a lot. Whenever an idea comes to mind, I sing it into the phone and record it in my Voice Memos. These days the app is improved so that you can pause, edit out the parts you don’t want, and/or expand on the idea- all in one recording. Sometimes I hear more than a single element of a song all at once. I might start by recording a voice memo for drums, then record bass or a lead tone, I record whatever I hear in my head. These ideas come to my rescue when looking for inspiration.
Listening to Music Critically
We all listen to music on the daily anyway, so one thing I started doing recently to help inspire me is creating various playlists on Spotify and naming them according to how they inspire me. For example; I have a playlist named Trap Inspo, Hiphop Inspo, Sync Inspo- you get the idea. Songs on these playlists usually have a special attribute that attracts me to them. Either they are very well produced, or have the ultimate kick or snare for the genre, or would really do well as TV/film music etc.
When I’m looking for inspiration, I go through my playlists and most times I find inspiration to create. I could also do it by genre- if I’m trying to create a hiphop song I might choose to listen to only the hiphop playlist.
Browsing Samples and Sounds
For those of you who don’t know, there are a bunch of royalty-free samples services online. My favorite at the moment is Splice. I use Splice for two reasons. First to save time while producing music and designing sound, I use the platform to get cool sounding patches, single shots of snare or kicks, hi-hat loops, etc. The second reason why I use splice is for inspiration. Sometimes it starts with a phrase I find on splice. I drop it into my DAW and add things to it. Other times it will be a dope drum loop that I pull up and build on. Most times I end up replacing the original phrase/loop I used or just deleting it but by the time I do that, I already have a chord progression going and I have a direction I am headed in with the song.
Designing New Sound Patches
Typically whenever I’m browsing sound patches for fun, most sounds spark an imagination for how I could use them in a song. I enjoy using preset sound patches, but when I have downtime (LIKE WHEN I'M NOT MOTIVATED TO CREATE), I experiment with creating new sounds in Serum, Omnisphere, Nord, or Ableton. Sometimes I find inspiration in new sounds that I create. Once I have created a sound that I think is interesting enough, I might be inspired to use it in context. For example, play a riff or a chord progression which I can then build on and create a song. Additionally practicing any new production tips you’ve recently learned- for example reverse sounds, chopping sounds, glitch/stutter effects- can be a great source of inspiration.
Revisiting Older Unfinished Songs
Some people do not prefer to revisit their older unfinished songs, but I occasionally take the trip down memory lane especially when I am looking for inspiration. I am usually pleasantly surprised (or not) by what I find. Tracks that I forgot about- that if polished or tweaked- would actually come to life. Obviously, use good judgment with this one because among your old unfinished songs you will find some that are not worth revisiting. Skip those bad ideas and keep it moving.
Watching My Favorite YouTube Videos
Yasss! YouTube videos!! Watch as many as you can; watch your favorite producers, your favorite tutorials, bands, documentaries, funny videos, cat videos. Watch whatever you feel like watching that makes you feel good. There is lots of inspiration that can be drawn from watching the people you consider to be the best at what they do.
So, there you go! Next time you are looking for inspiration, I hope you can draw from these little tools. Let me know in the comments if you have different methods that work for you or if you have a question for me.