Productivity Versus Patience
I work in waves. I can write a ton of songs for a few months then nothing. Boom. Blank. I used to freak out that my creativity was lost and gone forever. Now I know this is just how I used work. I had three “phases” or “modes” of my music process: the touring, the creative and the business. They seem to have weaved in and out of each other, like astrology stars lining up for a good day in love. When I was in touring mode or creative mode, I was never really psyched about booking, making phone calls, sending emails. I noticed that when my touring and creative spurts were over, I would kick it into business high-gear.
I’ve learned to trust these waves of inspiration, and know how to shift my daily schedule to make sure that I am the most productive yet also to tackle each area (creative, touring, business) every day. The biggest thing I’ve implemented in my life that has made a massive difference is to get a plan, make definitive actions, and schedule when those actions will get completed.
Inspiration is not something you wait around for. It’s something you can generate.
That being said, there is also something to be said about patience and giving myself room for results to flow in.
Two years ago, on a Wednesday night in Switzerland, I was in “tour mode”, sitting on my temporary bed in a little mountain-town house. I was getting ready to perform at a high paying, low-satisfying fancy restaurant show. One month prior I was in mega “business mode” yet I left for Europe with a few “we’ll see’s” and “let me get back to you’s” and no solid gigs or opportunities to return to. Until that night… in between sets, my phone started showing all kinds of LED love. I had gotten an email confirming a college show for $1100, a date on a CT news channel, and an invitation to go to a Korean Film Festival to perform one of my film scores live… all expenses paid. These were results from efforts I had initiated months ago. And even though I really wanted these results to be immediate so I could move into my creative and touring zones without interruption, I suddenly had a new energy while I performed for the waitresses last night. (The audience was chewing too loudly to notice me, and the one table that did, well, they took pictures and bought my CDs only because they thought I was Sara Bareilles. No big deal).
I replied to all of my emails, confirming my participation in everything I was offered (that’s a whole other article- say yes to EVERYTHING!). My left hand was on my phone, my right hand was making up some nice arpeggios, perfectly appropriate for dinner.
What I learned that night was that it was okay to wear many hats at one time, and that successes in one area of my life could indeed inspire my creativity in another. I thought I should have been focused on performing and touring, and that being in “business mode” was something I do when I’m home in front of my computer, sending emails and making phone calls. But it’s not as separate as I thought. As an independent musician, the touring, creative and business processes often collide, and instead of resisting one or two of them, I’ve learned to embrace them so that I have a life that works.
Cheryl B. Engelhardt is a composer for films, ads and CollegeHumor.com, and a singer/songwriter who’s booked a bunch of tours around the USA and Europe and gotten her recorded music placed on lots of TV shows. Her website is www.CBEmusic.com and she writes a music industry blog called Living On Gigging. You can follow her on Twitter @CBE. She just released “In The Key Of Success: The 5 Week Jump- Start Strategy,” an incredibly valuable and effective E-Course for independent musicians on how to jump-start their careers to radically change the results they’ve been getting.