I’ve come to notice that many writers/composers/creatives struggle with the same things, and between my many moments of procrastination, anxiety, maybe at times slight insanity, I’ve come to a point, where I know I can finish writing a project before the deadline I put in place.
I learned a lot about routines, productivity and effectivity by reading books, blogs, listening to podcasts, interviews and watching (way too) many YouTube videos, and subsequently tried out many different routines over the past year. So today I want to share the things that help me most, to catch the muse, in her best mood.
- Find your most productive time of the day. I used to think my prime time for writing was around midnight, but after trying out many different times, I came to find that my best time to write is at 6 a.m. Don’t stop reading yet, thinking I’m completely insane, but I’ve found out over time, that when I get up at 6, I am most clear headed, inspired, non-judgmental (very important while creating) and open. Even in the winter, when I get up when it’s still dark, it’s beautiful. I’ll watch the sun come up. There is something about being there before the sun rises, it feels like stolen time, and I’ve noticed that at that time of day, I’m most conscious and clear-headed. Another benefit of getting up early, is that it’s (relatively) quiet, and in my case, Julian is still sleeping, so there’s no one in the house I could get distracted by. Also, no one (in most cases) expects of you to reply to mails, texts or pick up your phone at that hour of the day, so it’s the perfect time, to get a few solid, concentrated hours of writing in, before the rest of the world demands your attention. *
- Keep your phone switched off or on Airplane mode / Do Not Disturb Mode or even better, put it in another room (on most days, nobody’s calling you at 6am anyway). This one may speak for itself, but eliminating all distractions – especially screens, is crucial to focussed writing.
- Meditate. If you don’t have a meditation practice yet, I highly recommend you starting one up. You probably know about the countless benefits prescribed to it and I’ve found it especially helpful while writing and creating. When I get up at 6 a.m. the first thing I do is meditate for 20 minutes. It helps me to be present, open and creates space to envision. It reminds me of what I’m working towards, which helps me keep focus and motivation over extended periods of time.
- Create a ritual. If you know a bit about how to create good and lasting habits, you might have heard this tip more than once. For instance, if your goal is to exercise every morning, lay out your workout clothes before you go to sleep and put those on first thing in the morning. Creating a ritual around that, helps you to stick to your intentions.. My early morning ritual when it comes to writing is as follows:
- Rise straight from bed when the alarm goes (when you snooze, you loose).
- Put on the clothes I laid out the night before.
- Drink a glass of water (hydrating helps me wake up)
- Do a quick skincare routine
- Make some chai tea to enjoy for after my meditation
- Meditate for 20 minutes
I usually write until about 10.00 a.m. and then I have breakfast. Those hours are my most productive and fruitful hours of the day. No matter how much I wrote and how good I found the writing to be, I feel it consistently comes from a very deep, honest and reflected place.
- Always have your writing essentials set up. My writing essentials depend on what I’m working on. If it’s demos, I’ll make sure I have my computer, interface and mic set up and my amp plugged in. Also I’ll make sure I’ll have my phone charged so I can record videos on there, e.g. to remember how to play certain things on guitar. Other things I swear by are: BLACKWING pencils. The first time I heard about those was in Fred Hersch’s documentary: The Ballad Of Fred Hersch. When Julian and I had a lesson with him in his apartment in New York, I asked him about it, and he gave me one. Especially if you write by hand a lot (like me) it’s so much more pleasurable to write with then normal pencils. It really is, as it says on the pencil ‘half the pressure, twice the speed’. Intrigued? Another essential, especially while going through editing stages of lyrics files is the Atoma Notebook. What makes this one special is that you can take out the pages, print on them, put them back in and shuffle them around. I got it as a Christmas gift from Julian. It’s beautiful and very helpful for keeping all the different versions in one place. It won’t fall or blow off your music stand, it doesn’t fold in your bag and you can go back to prior versions, and see if there’s something you want to put back into the song.
- Take breaks when you need them. Just be aware of what you do while taking a break. If I switch on my phone and start scrolling through my Facebook or Instagram feed, it’s very possible that I look up from my phone and an hour has past, my head feels dizzy and probably too full to get back into the zone. Something I do, when I feel I need a quick break or stretch my legs, is grab a cup of hot tea and watch the sun rise. My perfect day, would be to see the sunrise and sunset every day. It helps me connect to nature, which is key for me to putting things in perspective and not getting lost in thought. Also, when my back, neck or shoulders feel sore, I’ll do some yoga or stretching. It helps my circulation, and helps to keep a good posture while writing, so I can write for more hours without putting to much strain on my body.
- Keep creating and editing separate. To me, this is the single most important tip I can give you! I believe that 90% of frustration I feel while creating, is caused by trying to edit at the same time. These two mindsets for many people, including me, don’t go together. When I try to write something perfect, it’s very likely that I’m gonna dislike what I write, since it’s not coming from an open, honest, authentic place. It’s why some people say they can only write good songs when they feel very strong emotions. If you feel very sad, you will probably write without being too technical about it – you just need to throw it all out. I’ve written songs like these, and those feel sincere, but it would be quite exhausting to always be in a state of heavy emotion. You need to get into a mental state where you’re calm, open and non-judgmental, so something real can come out. This is why I keep my creating time and editing time seperate. I always create in the morning, before breakfast so to say, and then I edit in the early afternoon or in the evening. This way, I don’t get in my own way, and that saves a lot of frustration, energy and time.
- Clear your space. They say a clear space is a clear mind, and I know this might not apply to everyone, but working in a cleared and clean space certainly helps me not to get distracted. If I want to write the next morning, I’ll make sure that the dishes are done, the kitchen is clean, my studio is tidied and all set up, my yoga mat rolled out, my meditation cushion in place and the only thing I need to do is to flick on the light and get started.
Now of course you can just write, whenever you wanna write, and sometimes it just goes great, without any planning, rituals, essentials. But if you want to get into a routine of creating, or need to finish any creative project in x amount of time, these tips hopefully help you to get into a flow of creative output. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last few years, is that things take time, and that is a good thing. I’ve really needed to learn consistency, no matter what the outcome. Over time, words, sentences, songs add up, and in this way I hope to slowly grow my body of work, and grow as a writer, composer and artist.
I hope these tips are helpful to you in some way. Thank you for reading, happy writing and see you soon! <3
* You might wonder: ‘but what if you played a gig and don’t get home until 2 a.m.?!’ Well, I always try to sleep for 8 hours, since this will keep me energized and healthy on the long run. When I play gigs, I’ll sleep longer and do the same routine then (although it’s a bit harder since there are more distractions, or I get up at 6 a.m. but take a siesta in the afternoon to catch up.
If you want to read more about artist’s routines and/or finding a mind-set to create I can recommend these books to you:
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
Recipe Morning Chai Tea
Add 1 teaspoon of Yogi Tea: Classic Chai (caffeine free) to 1 liter of boiling water (let it cook for 15-20 minutes) I either let it cook on the stove (this is what is recommended on the package) but you can also just let it sit in your teapot over a candle or with a tea cosy over it for the same amount of time.
If you like add some fresh ginger.
Then to your cup add:
a splash of Oat Milk/ Almond Milk
1 teaspoon of Organic Honey
a pinch of Cinnamon
et voila, a heartwarming drink, that will keep you warm, awake and happy.
Recipe 100% No-Nonsense Skin Moisturiser
100 ml Organic Macademia Oil
2 drops of Organic Lavender Or Neroli Essential Oil (or any essential oil you love, e.g. rosemary, orangeblossom etc.)
100 ml glass flask (glass dropper bottle)
Mix it together in the bottle, splash some water in your face, deb it semi-dry, put some oil on your hands and gently spread it over your face.