Article by Jordan Pratt
I have a strong belief that every person on this planet should be working to create something. Whether it’s making a living for a family, starting a business, or an artistic endeavor like songwriting. The lens I normally think about creating is through songwriting, but these concepts can definitely be applied more broadly. I’d also like to mention that these 5 tips really bear repeating. Humans are forgetful, and while some of these things may seem like common sense now, you will need to be reminded later when that dreaded “writer’s block” rolls around.
5 tips for Limitless creativity
- Show up
The #1 thing I attribute my creative success on is showing up. Whether or not I “feel” like writing. Carving valuable time away for the craft is essential to creativity. This often causes us creative types to squirm, as our best work often seems to come from spontaneity and bursts of inspiration, as if we were struck by lightning. Unfortunately, (or in a literal sense, very fortunately) it is very rare to be struck by lightning. By showing up, we increase the likelihood that inspiration will strike. We create an environment for creative inspiration.
- Say “no” to your inner critic. It’s hard to turn off the critic in our mind hating on all our creative work. It can be paralyzing, and the result is usually writer’s block. One good way to conquer your inner critic is through “morning pages.” Many artists have taken up this practice while reading Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.” Morning pages are a free-write session where you write 3 pages first thing in the morning. In these pages, you can be as negative, or positive as you are feeling. You don’t have to hold anything back. You just write it out. Doesn’t need to be anything super “creative,” just the act of writing out the thoughts in your mind clears the cobwebs and invites your mind to explore. I recently attended a songwriting panel where Sam Hollander (“Hey Look Ma I Made it”, High Hopes” – Panic! At the Disco) mentioned that every morning he wakes up at 6AM and just immediately starts writing melodies and lyrics. I think we’re just a bit less self-critical in the mornings. I know it helps me to write earlier in the day, but everyone is different. That said, really recommend checking out “The Artist Way” if you haven’t yet.
- Finish the thing. This is one I’m still really working hard on. It’s so easy to get caught up and rewrite obsessively, but in doing that you miss out on constantly creating. Granted, if you’re working on your lyrical masterpiece and you’re an aspiring Leonard Cohen, the process might be different. But especially if you are writing pop or focusing on memorable melodies, I think it’s great advice to JUST FINISH THE THING. At NAMM, this was my biggest takeaway from the songwriter panels. FINNEAS told the audience during his keynote that he almost never rewrites his lyrics. He said that if a line is really bad, he will work until it’s decent, but basically there’s no point on working forever on an ok song. Get the ok song done, keep writing. Eventually you might receive inspiration to take that song to the next level, or you might actually get to a great song that you never would have found if you just stuck around with the mediocre one. Either way, I think it’s great advice to just plow on through and improve your craft to write better songs faster.
- Fill the tank. If you’re feeling stuck, the next best thing to showing up is going out of your way to find something that inspires you. It could be going to a concert, a road trip, reading a book of poetry, or even just getting out and taking a walk. Spontaneity and adventure are great for the soul.
- Steal. Who creatively inspires you? Work off the template. Something I like to do is find a melody that I really like, and twist it around. Maybe I’ll change the chord progression a bit, or I’ll take the first few notes, and then write a new passage. Of course, melodies are copyrighted, so you have to be careful with this. I think they can be great springboards though, and if you are smart about it this can be a tool for creativity. On the other hand, chord progressions are NOT copyrighted, so steal away! This is definitely tied to tip 4, we can be inspired by the songs we start off with as a template
- Show up
I know not everyone loves musical theater, but Stephen Sondheim is undoubtedly a legend and an incredible lyricist. Whenever I’m feeling frustrated about my creative output (or lack thereof), I give a listen to “Move On” from Sunday in the Park with George. I think of that entire musical as Sondheim’s love letter to the creatively inclined, but this song is really the pinnacle for me.
“Stop worrying where you’re going-
If you can know where you’re going
Just keep moving on”
– Stephen Sondheim, Sunday in the Park with George
It’s easy to obsess over things we can’t change. The only choice that matters is to move forward. Even when we don’t know where that will take us! So let’s show up, finish the thing, get inspired, and appreciate the amazing work other artists are putting out into the world.
How will you utilize these tools and ideas in your projects? I’d love to hear from you.