Recently, I had a couple of ‘unexpected’ shifts in my reasonably busy but not actually chaotic schedule. The first was due to increased traffic and interest in one part of my business. The second was nature reminding me I am very insignificant in her schedule by delivering a fairly impressive rapid fire series of earthquakes, floods and storms.
Now, I found I was more prepared for the seismic interruption both physically and psychologically. Our home stayed upright and was well stocked with earthquake kits and bottled water, pinot noir and chocolate. We could work remotely, the power was on, our hard drives backed up and we could communicate with family, friends and clients pretty easily. Geonet was helpful, RNZ coverage useful, Facebook a yawn, but we could all at least clock in and get on with our lives, no drama.
It was the first time squeeze that had been way more disruptive than seismology, mostly ruffling my peace of mind with an unwanted noise of ‘busy-ness’. Urggghh! It mucked with my ability to sit down and write, and by crikey, I hate that!
‘I don’t have time’ is a common refrain from people who are learning to balance family, work, socialising, exercise, Netflix etc etc and what they say they really want to do – songwriting.
How do you prioritise something that you love to do without jeopardising the responsibilities of adult life? How do you do this if you’re at school without neglecting your homework assignments, your part time job, walking the dog, household chores, netball or piano practice?
Well, you can’t conjure up more hours in the day and more days in the week. But you can look at what’s realistic for you to commit to so you don’t pop a fuse.
We know that if you invest time and energy in something, it will develop, especially as you learn new skills and techniques and start applying them. What we don’t know is if you give ten songwriters the same skill set and set of circumstances, which one will write a hit? Or that any of them actually will. What we do know is if you don’t spend time on your craft, you don’t give yourself the option.
Now, I’m not saying write ten hours a day, and you’ll be the next Neil Finn sure as eggs can boil. What I’m pointing out is when things crank up in your life, it can be very easy to put your songwriting on the back burner. At times, that may be the right thing to do. But if it becomes the default position and your momentum is constantly eroded, then change something.
Try these tactics.
1. Downsize - the more you have, the more you have to look after. Do you really need ten guitars when they all have six strings? One guitar can help you write ten songs at least. Do you need to work overtime to buy the biggest speakers for your studio when your ears can only listen so long at the highest volume? Time is valuable. Put it in your songwriting account.
2. Automate – yes, of course, for bills and income, but also use online and phone alarms and calendars to help you schedule songwriting time. Pre-planned reminders remove the need for willpower to make a start. A once a week session is better than not at all.
3. Outsource – do you need to mow the lawns this week or can Jim’s/Pete’s - insert ‘single syllable guys name’ green fingered business with a strimmer and a ute do it? Do you have to cook all the meals, or can you share the cooking with your partner or shock horror your teenagers? Do you really need to do all the after school pickups or can the kids get the bus this week/ car pool with other parents?
4. Buffering – give yourself some wriggle room so that if you get a flat tyre, the traffic’s terrible, your client’s late, the dentist took longer, it doesn’t throw the rest of your week out causing you to dump your session. Buffering allows for the things of life, the whoops-a-daisies that ALWAYS HAPPEN and yet, we’re often surprised when they do. Don’t cram your expected schedule so much there’s no room for the unexpected, which isn’t really that unexpected, eh....
Talk more soon
Hi, I'm Charlotte Yates and I can help you get better at writing songs.