by Cari Cole
In a recent interview with Mashable, the Chicago-based singer-songwriter said that for his third studio album, he and drummer and writing partner Josh Sparks holed up in a cabin in Vermont for a month to write. “It really helped me get out of my own head, be able to write and not think about where we were going or what was going on outside of us,” he says. “I didn’t feel rushed or pressured, and I wasn’t overthinking the process too much.”
“Standards, Weiss’ strongest and sharpest work so far, is a result of of trusting his instincts.”
Hibernation is not an unusual tactic used with musicians during the writing of a record. Distraction is the biggest killer of creativity, and in today’s iPhone, social media frenzied world, it’s a bigger challenge than ever to stay focused long enough to get to the good stuff. And time is what any creative project really needs to open up the process and to tap that inner well where all the gems lie waiting to be discovered.
Given that time is a luxury we don’t all have, or can arrange, it’s really about doing what you can more deliberately. Like turning off your phone, going off the grid for an afternoon, grabbing any opportunity you have for longer stretches of writing whenever you can.
Here are my top tips for songwriters to unplug and emerge with real gems in hand:
• Say “no” to everything else
When you are writing a record you shouldn’t be doing anything else but writing that record. That’s right. Nothing else. That means clear your schedule, clear your mind, clear your space, and make room on your schedule to birth that baby. It may take a full 9 months ;). The trick is not allowing anything or anyone to take your energy and attention away from your project. It takes time to go deep. It takes all of your focus to create something really great. And I assume you are not interested in releasing a mediocre record in the marketplace ;). Hibernate, write, create with zero distractions. This is how it’s done.
• Block out sections of time on your schedule each week to write songs
Blocking out time on your calendar for songwriting is important because it gets your mind ready for the session and gives you a dedicated time on the calendar like a real job. It might take a little getting used to if you’re used to waiting for the spirit to move you, but once you start scheduling specific songwriting sessions on your calendar, you might notice that the fountain starts flowing more instead of trickling. The trick is to make it non-negotiable time which means you write whether you feel like it or not. You might be surprised to find that the success of your songwriting session is not based on how you feel and feeling a little blue or down can actually yield better results because you might be more aware of your emotions and want to release them (good for writing ;))
Try to arrange at least 2 hours per songwriting session. Anything less and you won’t have enough time to take a worthy dive. When I was writing my Circle of Fire record, I would start at 8 am and still be in my p.j.’s finishing up around 7 or 8 pm. I’m not suggesting you adopt my long hours, but honestly that’s the process for me. That’s the only way I know how to create really good sh*t is to have lots of time. It works.
• During songwriting sessions, turn off all distractions including your phone and computer
Songwriting is like meditation. One second pulls you out and you lose the benefits. Songwriters do best when they have no distractions which allow for the ideas to percolate undisturbed. And be sure to hang a Do Not Disturb sign on your doorknob.
• Consider a “songwriting” vacation
Instead of going on a regular vacation, consider going somewhere that you can write undisturbed. A quiet tranquil getaway is a great way to get away from the distractions of ordinary life and immerse yourself in your writing.
• Consider attending a songwriting workshop or songwriting conference
Another way to make time (or get massive inspiration) for your songwriting is to consider attending a songwriting workshop or a songwriting conference. Great songs need inspiration and there’s no better place to get that than songwriting workshops and conferences. Check your local Performing Rights Organizations for their listings, they have the best and highest quality ones.