Building a morning routine that includes a 30 minute music session has been the single most impactful decision in my life when it comes to composing.
Before that, I used to wait for inspiration to strike. For periods of time, the muse showed up fairly often and then it stopped, for months at a time, as I got distracted by life.
Between 2003 and 2006, I must have written and composed 10 songs per year, maybe a little bit less, probably not a little bit more. Lyrics, melodies and arrangements came pretty easily and I was happy. Then I lost a loved one and got writer’s block for the first time.
Between 2006 and 2011, I probably wrote 10 new tunes, maybe 15.
Then in 2012, feeling lonely in a big city (London if you ask), I went to music school and started learning about sound engineering, sound design, orchestration, mixing, jingle writing and all sorts of fun and exciting stuff. By the time I got back to Paris in 2014, I had another 15-20 tunes ready.
Didn’t do much in 2015 as tragedy struck again.
What I’m showing here is that between 2003, when I started writing my own songs, and 2015, my musical output was a slave to my emotions. The first period as an enthusiastic 20 something was pretty fruitful until I started doubting myself and asking too many questions. Then another productive spell came as I found myself isolated and sought comfort in music until life through poop in my face.
I believe I found the key in 2016 which didn’t reach seismic 2015 proportions but gave its fair share of crappiness to deal with.
In 2016, for 9 months, no matter what, I worked on my music every single week day. The result? 100+ tracks done and dusted, from start to finish.
So how did I do it exactly?
Well first, full disclosure: I took a 6 months sabbatical from my full-time day job and that certainly helped. Not because I don’t have time or energy to do it when I work full time but because my brain needed the break, an opportunity to relax, recover from 2015 and reboot.
So while you may not be in the perfect conditions to try this out if you have a full-time job and of course it’s ideal if you can focus fully on music, it is also absolutely doable even if you work full-time. I’ve been back in the office for the past 8 months now and still on track with my morning routine.
If a big sleeper, master procrastinator and slacker like me can do it, so can you! I promise!
So…. how did I do it?
Number 1: I started going to bed early and, surprise surprise, it became easier to wake up early 😉
Number 2: I committed to a very specific sequence of events to happen when my alarm went off (the initial commitment was for 7 days so as to avoid being too scary).
This is very personal, you should figure out what works for you. In my case, I started out by incorporating 10 minutes of high intensity physical exercise before jumping in the shower. It didn’t work out for me. After a few days, the thought of getting out of bed to jumping jacks was so repulsive that I started sleeping in again. So I took that out of my routine and came up with this:
Alarm -> 5 minute stretch -> shower -> 15 minute meditation -> 30+ minute music session -> breakfast -> go
30+ minute music session means that I set the timer to 30 minutes. When it goes off, I have license to save and bounce my project, safe in the knowledge that I have done my day’s work. If I’m in the groove, I just keep going. This is most of the time now as I grew into my habit and the muse started showing up like clock work. Now it seems the muse always strikes by 9!
This is what works for me these days. For a period I did morning pages before getting out of bed and it’s only recently that I added stretching.
The important thing is that you find what works for you.
After a little while, you’ll find that your brain knows exactly what to do when the alarm goes off and, before you know it, it’ll be channeling all your creative juice most morning and you’ll start seeing the muse way more often than before, less reliant on mood and external circumstances.
PS: I always enjoy reading what works and what doesn’t for different people so if you have any stories you’d like to share with me, go for it! You’ve got Facebook and Twitter in the sidebar.