Tag Archives: inspiration

Capturing inspiration

The concept of Flow is a certain intoxication of attention that gives you a feeling of omniscience of your subject matter. Time slows down to a crawl, and you handle many things at once. Your mind is clear, and your productivity is maximized.

There are lots of online articles about how to get into Flow, and how to avoid breaking Flow. Flow is important for artists and engineers alike. It’s a state of mind that is difficult to acquire and easy to lose, but it allows you to create your own inspiration. We all go through rituals to achieve Flow, just like we go through rituals to sleep or to be comforted.

I think that intoxication of Flow is a huge lure for artists, and probably one of the reasons that so many never leave their studios or complete anything. Flow is seductive and addictive.

There are a few other, less common, instances where Flow can occur but may be ignored and lost due to stress or distraction. Namely: during a performance and during a recording session.

I usually blog about things I messed up, as learning lessons. :) But from time to time I get something right. Scary, I know. Not too long ago, I was in the studio with Shiplosion, and on maybe the second take of a song I played this bombastic tom fill with a ton of cymbals on a complete whim. In retrospect, I had finally achieved a Flow state, and the inspiration presented itself in a single second that felt like an eternity, and I made a split second decision to just flow with it, and dammit I’m proud of that drum solo–something I had never rehearsed. (Sorry, the song’s not posted yet, but I’ll let you know)

Most recently, I recorded on the debut Bucharest Drinking Team album, and had another Flow moment (I think it took several takes this time) in a tune where I switched over to the ride cymbal during a brief phrase where the violins play. Again, this was never rehearsed, but it felt like I had an eternity right there in the middle of the song to think about the idea and decide to go with it.

In both cases, I’m pretty darned proud of what happened, and they would have been impossible without Flow.

I’m totally going to work hard to set my self up for this next time, because it was largely on accident. But I think the factors probably include: practice, practice, practice, self-confidence, preparation (i.e. practice), being warmed up, joy, minimized distractions, focus, trust in others, and relaxation. I’ll have to think about what kinds of rituals I can perform to lead up to moments like this. But the key is, that yes we still have to work and work and work regardless of inspiration–but we also need to be prepared and ready to seize inspiration when it does happen.

If you have any Flow rituals, or other examples where Flow was a huge success for you… please share them!

What we’re taught, versus the real world

We are taught that when you graduate 8th grade, you are a 9th grader in high school.

But if we look at it like the real world, then it’s really a 2 year process.

7th Grade: You are performing at an 8th grade level, and learning to be a 9th grader.

8th Grade: After a year of performing at 8th grade, you have now earned the title of 8th grader. Now you are performing at a 9th grade level, and learning to be a 10th grader.

9th Grade: Congratulations! After consistently performing at a 9th grade level for a year, you have earned the right to be called a 9th grader. You are now starting to perform at a 10th grade level, and learning to be an 11th grader.

This is how it works in the business world. You don’t receive a job title until you prove that you can do it consistently. Job titles aren’t aspirational. You don’t get a job title because you have potential. You’re hired because you have potential, and your job title is based on your previous consistent actions.

I think the lesson here is that we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves, even in art. We need to prove our worth for 2 years before we receive recognition. Recognition only comes in hindsight, and you can’t wait for it. Don’t fall into the trap of letting recognition be the source of your inspiration.

Trying to be consistent

Previously, I’ve mentioned the importance of regulary producing art, over and over, so that you keep up with yourself. Otherwise your art gets stale before you’re done, and you end up scrapping it or never completing it.

The other benefit of regularly producing art is that you learn to be consistent. Consistency is an important aspect of trust. Trustworthy musicians are fun to play with. Of course, good musicians are even more fun! But, it’s good to be trustworthy. I’m not going to get into the band dynamics that come from being trustworthy, that’s what sites like How to Run a Band are for (disclosure: I’m in a band with Seth). And I won’t get into the importance of your fans trusting you, and so on.

But if the quality of your art is all over the map, then you will suffer. If you’re awake one day, and hung over the next, then you’ll suffer. If you only make art when you’re inspired, then you’ll suffer through long periods of time without productivity. You probably already suffer. That’s why you’re an artist. Might as well avoid letting your art suffer, too.

But make sure you’re being realistic. I set a goal to make a blog post once/week, which I thought was realistic at the time, and yet I’m quickly closing the gap of only being a few weeks ahead. I started a few months ahead. By the time you are reading this, I will be on vacation. Good thing I am still ahead! I can focus on my family over vacation. It’s a challenge, but it pays off. And I hope this is a realistic challenge. If I stop delivering a blog post every week, then I expect people will stop checking up on me to see what’s up, and I will get even farther behind when I have tours or vacations.

On a related note, if I don’t write good content, then you’ll stop too! Another example of setting realistic goals: you need to have consistent quality.

This post is probably on the low end of the quality spectrum, but just a thought that I felt was worth sharing.

I’m not good at Math

I would hear that a lot when I was a math tutor while pursuing my BS in Math at Southern Oregon University. My college classmates and my private students from high school would often tell me this straight up.

But the stark reality is that math is not any harder than anything else. Now, if you came to me and said, “I’m not good at being an astronaut”–that, I could believe. You have to have a PhD, or numerous other degrees, you have to have great social skills, you have to be physically fit, you have to be adaptable, and you have to manage stress. You have to be a Warrior. You’ll probably drop out and never get selected. Genetics plays a large role.

Math is not like being an astronaut. No, you just are not interested.

I don’t know when this whole thing started. But for some reason, if you don’t like math then you get to blame your genetics. As if you have an allergy, and the only cure is less math. So, why go to a tutor? Are tutors like magic wizards that grant you a passing-grade spell?

Don’t tell me you hate all the repetition. How many times have you listened to your favorite song?

But above all else, don’t tell me you’re not good at math. And especially, don’t tell me you’re stupid.

Be honest. You hate math. So let’s find out why that is, then let’s get you a C+ in your algebra class and move on.

I’m not good at math, my ass. You know what you’re not good at? Excuses.