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.
5 Steps to Getting Un-Stuck
Writing, for me, is like running. They are both good for me (and for those around me), yet they both take a marching band-sized cheering squad to get me started. The amount of debating, procrastinating, dodging, and fidgeting I do when I know it’s time to open a blank Pages document or put on my running shoes, is ridiculous. I’ve been on my own, making a living and getting my own gigs for YEARS.
You’d think being a freelance composer and an independent artist (not to mention a personal trainer back in the day) would require mad discipline and skills to overcome the temptations of procrastination. So why have I been feeling so stuck lately??
The answer came to me recently while developing an E-course for independent musicians looking to make new strides in their careers. Through this process, I had to examine my own practices and habits. I learned that the moments of feeling stuck in my career were usually followed by moments of occupational breakthroughs. Seemingly insignificant opportunities, where I was dragging my feet to complete small tasks, opened up bigger doors. Just knowing that feeling stuck is my personal way of resisting the success that lies ahead has allowed me to ignore the calls of procrastination. Side note: “procrastinate” means “defer action”. Duh. When we are up to something big, we have bigger inner-demons to vanquish. My E-course is just my latest and greatest endeavor that has lots of potential for success, which means lots of demons trying to keep me comfortable (read: SMALL) to fight off.
So now, whenever I feel stuck, overwhelmed, underwhelmed, and just plain uncertain of the future, instead of letting the demons win (and by the way, their names are: Spinning My Wheels, Doing Busy Work That Gets Me Nowhere, Feeling Lazy, Unmotivated, Hopeless, You Can’t REALLY Do That), I stick to the following steps:
- Jot down a couple of sentences that describe your big picture…. what you really want for your life, and what you are up to in your career.
- Write down five things you’ve recently accomplished, no matter how big or small. Give yourself a moment to acknowledge all you’ve already achieved!
- Write down at least five actions to take that will create opportunities…. no matter how much you’re not in the mood to do them.
- Do those actions. Today! No matter what. Like your life depends on it.
- Call up a friend and make an accountability buddy. Tell this person what your big picture is and how you plan to achieve it, starting with things to do this week. Ask your buddy to check in with you before the end of the week to make sure you are on track, to see if you need any motivation, and to keep you accountable for what you said you would do.
By reassessing what I want in life, having some clear things to do, and having someone standing by me while I do them gives me the juice I need to re-center my goals and my attitude. And when I can do this with my career, it’s much easier to put on those running shoes and hit the road.
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.