In the previous post, I kicked off a series of articles that will run for at least another week. My goal for this series is to provide a comprehensive but succinct summary of the entire art of songwriting (really dug a hole for myself with this one, eh? ;)). In this article we’ll cover a few fundamental principles of learning that will help speed you on your way and help you do justice to your talent.
To learn thoroughly and do your best creative work, give yourself fully to each practice session or writing exercise. Focus! Be present! Don’t tune out!
Of course that’s easier to say than to do. Common short-term distractions include:
- Cluttered, messy, loud, or otherwise disruptive surroundings
- Friends, roommates, family
- Worries about money, relationships, career, & everything else under the sun
- Electronic devices that beep, toot, and keep crawling into your hand
- Focusing too much on the difficulties of the process, instead of the joys
- Noodling or following tangents instead of practicing*
*this latter one is okay—maybe you’re learning new chords and you got inspired and started writing a new song. Great! But don’t forget to find your way back to the rest of the chords (or whatever) that you were supposed to learn.
You should secure the best environment you can for practice and writing. It should feel like a calm oasis: a place where you can relax. Where you can think. Where you can work.
If possible, work in solitude. Shut the door. Turn off your phone and leave it safely out of mind and sight (and out of arm’s reach). Turn off the television. Get rid of any visually distracting clutter. Spare only unobtrusive, inspiring things. If you feel peace and readiness to work, you’ve done well.
In my case, this means only a clean surface and a notebook remains—or a music stand and my instrument, as the case may be.
Despite a good environment, you may still find yourself internally distracted—especially if you’re having trouble getting started or if you’re momentarily stuck on a certain problem. It may help you to close your eyes and focus on taking slow, deep breaths for a moment.
Now make a conscious, complete statement of what you wish to accomplish in this session. With that done, open your eyes and begin to make it so.
This kind of focus will help you not only with music, but with anything you set out to do.