Exposed

Last week I wrote about the three main ways that I find inspiration - other than sitting around and waiting for it to strike. I called these approaches "Look Farther", "Look Closer", and "Look Two Places At Once" - today we'll go a bit more in depth into the first one: finding inspiration by getting outside of your normal life and being exposed to new things.

I read about an author (I can't remember which!) who started writing everyday at the same time - and stopped everyday at the same time. It sounds counter-productive. Why would you interrupt any flow that you had gotten into? Don't we hear stories of artists who shut out the outside world to power through their projects? Perhaps there's a time and a place for that. But this guy firmly believed that by cutting off his creative working time each day, he would be forced to go do other things...you know, actually live his life...and that he would come back the next day not only with more to write about, but more excited to do it.

If you're stuck for inspiration, think about whether you might also have been stuck in an uninspiring routine lately. Have you experienced anything new that gives your mind something fresh to chew on, or anything beautiful that feeds your soul? As much as I might like to, I've learned that I can't sit at home and churn out awesome lyrics and music like a factory. It's important to shake things up, and there are a lot of ways you can do that deliberately in your hunt for inspiration:

Set aside time to go for walks. Moving around and being out in the world is a refreshing change from being cooped up trying to work at home. It also makes it much easier for the universe to give you little stories and surprises - bumping into a friend, witnessing a kid do something adorable, or simply invoking any mood that's more interesting than "me sitting at my desk". The melody and a lot of the words for "Agatha" came to me when I was out for a walk on a bit of a grey day with some light snow. Just that was enough to set the tone, and make the space in my being, for a beautiful, nostalgic song.

Read or watch things you usually wouldn't. A lot of us stick to certain genres of media - and there's nothing wrong with that - but I definitely find that branching out and exposing yourself to something different can get the cogs of inspiration moving, and you may end up discovering something new you like as well. Sometimes I go to the library and just pick things off the shelf at random - and suddenly I'll be immersed in the world of precious gems or ancient Egypt or something, and briefly I get to experience life from a new perspective.

Explore a new part of the place you live, or even better, go traveling if you can. New places and new cultures open up your eyes in ways that nothing else can. Not only that, but if you go on a long enough adventure you're bound to come away with some great stories to tell. I recently spent over a year wandering nomadically around five continents and I'm still reeling from all the things I experienced and learned - more about that in a future post!

We're in this to make music - so get exposed to loads of music. Without realizing it we can often be stuck in the same circles of what artists we've always listened to, and even our friends or media outlets that we follow in our social feeds will keep us locked into a limited range of what's new out there. Why not check out a show for a local artist you've never heard before? Or browse various tags on Bandcamp or Soundcloud? Hearing something you've never heard before can open your ears up to ideas and approaches you might not have otherwise considered. I went down an internet wormhole of island music one day and ended up on a video of a guy building steel drums; I thought those sounds were so cool I ended up composing an entire EP around them.

These are some of the ways I try to keep things fresh and be regularly exposed to new ideas and experiences - what are yours?

 

How To Find Inspiration

Andy on my Facebook page suggested I write about finding inspiration - and what better way to start a blog about music and creativity than the very starting point of creating music. Today I want to talk about three different ways to approach finding inspiration, and in my next few posts I'll go into detail with some tips and techniques I've discovered about each one.

First let's recognize that inspiration is much broader than the notion most people have of it. It’s not always a lightning bolt that strikes you out of nowhere - though those eureka moments can be great when they happen. I still remember the afternoon that two great songs came to me almost in their entirety, and both at the same time. I was jumping back and forth between playing and writing each one, afraid that pieces would be forgotten. Because of that incident, I felt compelled to pair them in title - Love #1 and Love #2.

But that's not an occurrence you can frequently count on, and anyway, I experience inspiration much more often in these other ways. I believe these can show up more in your creative life too if you’re attuned to them, and I've even given them cute little names to help you remember. 

So here's what I'll be posting about over the next three weeks. Subscribe at the bottom of the page if you want to get a notification with each update!

Inspiration by exposure - "Look Farther"

When you happen to (or make yourself) experience something new, you put yourself in a position where you’re much more likely to make creative discoveries. I wouldn't expect to have too many amazing ideas arrive out of the blue if every day you have the same routine of going to work, rushing through meals, clicking around online and going to bed. You've gotta shake things up, go outside, get uncomfortable.

Inspiration by examination - "Look Closer"

Unless you've been locked in an empty room for a prolonged period of time, I think you can find inspiration all around and within you at almost any moment. It's not that interesting ideas are hard to come by - you just need to actively filter out the extraneous and boring stuff to see them.

Inspiration by combination -  "Look Two Places At Once"

Creativity is all about making connections, and music usually involves more than one thing happening at a time. If you're stuck in your work, or want to come up with something different than you normally do, being open to combining two or more ideas from disparate or unexpected places can often spark something awesome.

I'm excited to share about my methods over the coming weeks, but in the meantime, what about you? Have you experienced inspiration in different ways? Do you have tricks for sparking new ideas or getting out of a writing rut?

 

Ready To Start

Well, I've thought about it, I've talked about it, I've sprinkled crushed amethyst over the Arctic Circle while incanting "bloooooog" in an icy whisper - I'm starting a blog.

When I tweeted about the possibility of doing this I was encouraged by all the responses to follow through on it, and I hope that that communication will continue here; I would love to connect with you in the comments. While I have a lot to say about music and creativity, I'm not some kind of expert grandmaster sound wizard - just a guy who has spent a lot of time making stuff - and I think we all have different and valuable insights to share.

My hope is that this can become a little pocket for the discussion of all areas of the creative process, whether it's reflection on finding your artistic identity or the nitty gritty of how to mic a drum kit. It might be a little all over the place, but I've learned a lot of different things about music in a lot of unusual ways - from spending ten years recording on tape decks as a kid, to being among the first to grow an audience online, to continuing to work while traveling for over a year without any more belongings than could fit in a suitcase. If you follow me on Tumblr you'll know that amidst all the gifs and junk I sometimes make more thoughtful posts about lyrics or music theory, and I plan to edit some of those pieces for inclusion here as well. Please let me know if there's anything you'd like me to write about!

For now I'm planning to post once a week - we'll see how that goes - you can subscribe to get email updates at the bottom of the page.

Also, I've never actually visited the Arctic Circle, but if there's enough interest in the comments we'll go on an expedition.