July 28, 2012

What are the Secrets to Consistent Creativity?

To flow in creativity, we need to move away from thinking that we have to produce something right now.

In my mind, I have the agenda of wanting to produce amazing music… and it needs to happen this morning. Because I’ve decided that I need to do a recording session, or that I need to meet my goals of being a dedicated musician. Even if my enthusiasm is temporarily low, or if I’m struggling to get into a creative groove.

I attempt to plough through anyways. Because I’m committed, ambitious and don’t give up.

It’s not a bad goal, right? Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? We should aim high and always strive to meet our goals. Isn’t this the right thing to do in music and in life, in general? Don’t we sometimes have to push through our low moments and just make something happen anyway?

Nope. Not at all.

There is a far superior way to connect with creativity. 

Creative Moments Cannot Be Forced

To attempt to force creativity when we feel in a lull would be similar to trying to expel more air from our lungs even though we’ve already breathed out everything we’ve got.

When breathing, there is always a brief pause at the end breath. In order to breath out again, we need to breathe in first.

And so it is with allowing the energy of creativity to flow in and out of us in our music, work and life activities. We release the energy when playing our music, when improvising, when exploring new note combinations within a particular scale, when going deep into our music to search for new sounds.

Forget About Music and Use Creative Rest

Sleeping dog on the beach, engaging in creative rest.

After we’ve breathed out everything we’ve got, periods of creative rest are usually needed.

Put your guitar or sax down for a few days, perhaps even a week or two. Go out and do a few non-musical activities, perhaps something active like running, hiking, biking, or any other activities that you enjoy. Go out for a movie, check out an art gallery or photo exposition. Get into a stretching or yoga routine. Maybe try something totally new.

“Forget” about music for a while.

During this mini-break, you will be accomplishing much more than if you decide to push through another five-hour practice day, or another semi-productive recording session.

When you feel creative anticipation and excitement building again, when you feel a strong need to play your instrument and your mind feels almost compelled to speak out through music, then that is when you’re ready to go back into your music and engage your creative sweet spot.

Taking a break from practicing and working on our music seems counter-intuitive, but it is one of the keys to ensuring that you can consistently enter into a creative space that can often be elusive.

Here’s U2’s guitarist, The Edge, on how he keeps his creativity up:

The Edge from U2, playing guitar

The Edge, from U2.

Whenever I start working on a song, I immediately try to forget everything, to empty my hands and head of anything that might be hanging over from another song or album. I try to approach it like, ‘This is the first time I’ve ever played a guitar. What am I going to do?’ That’s one way of getting through the conscious mind into the subconscious layer, where the true creative spirit lies.

What practices do you have that keep your creative ideas flowing?

Let me know in the comments below.

I’ll entertain all ideas that don’t involve me getting naked in a public place and making barnyard animal noises in order to summon the creative mojo spirits. I’ve already tried that before, and it totally doesn’t work. I did get a date out of it though…before getting arrested.

Nacho del Sol

I'm Nigel. A wandering minstrel at heart. Playing for other wandering souls. Love full sun. Been known to indulge in sonic experiments. If I ever fake my own death, I will flee to Costa Rica and re-name myself Nacho del Sol. I will travel only by donkey and befriend all the locals.

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Matt Pearl - August 13, 2012 Reply

Nacho

I am not a musician myself, nor do I consider myself musically sophisticated in any way. I do, however, have standards for music and they relate to the way that I feel about it. At a feeling level I have enjoyed the quality of your pieces. In particular, I enjoyed the song where the moon melting into the Med was inspiring you. I wonder what you have to say about where you take your rest, or even how you take your rest from music and while you are waiting for the creative juices to start flowing how do you recognize that they are beginning to flow? What is flow for a musician? How long can it last?

Nacho del Sol - August 15, 2012 Reply

Thanks for the kind words, Matt, and love the questions! I often just go with the flow for how I take creative rest. Often it’s non-musical, physical activities, but it can also be music-related in that I might listen to new artists, or watch live videos of some of my favorite artists. All of this leads to solid, fresh playing sessions once I finally pick up my musical weapon. Flow, for me, is just a feeling of, “It’s time (to play again).”. I tend not to make it any more complicated than that. It’s just a buildup of desire to play. Que vaya con Dios!

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