By Amy Hanna, Production/Radio Promo Coordinator
The work of musicians is undeniably tough. Take it from me: my senior year of college saw me spending countless hours locked away in studios, barely regarding my own humanity, for the sole purpose of churning out the perfect project that would earn me an A (or at the very least, a passing grade) in my Studio Techniques courses. Unfortunately, even as years have passed, I’ve carried a bit of that I-Am-Superwoman-I-Run-On-Sheer-Power-Of-Will nonsense with me into my production process for good. I’m not proud of this, and I recognize the fact that these habits are terrible for my overall health. However, on my better days, I keep a list handy of all the things that help me out when I’m making music (or doing any kind of mentally challenging work, for that matter). Here are some of the most important things to remember when keeping your mental health in check while making music.
(Spoiler alert: I’m going to spend the rest of this blog post reminding you to fulfill your basic human needs, because we all need those reminders sometimes. Trust me.)
1. Fresh air is your friend.
Full disclosure: if I had complete control of noise levels and the weather, I would only ever work outdoors. For starters, human beings derive genuine health benefits from exposure to sunlight and soft ground. Not to mention some of the biggest hit songs of all time have taken inspiration from the sun, the rain… you get the picture. Step outside and take a deep breath in when you’re feeling overwhelmed with your work, and perhaps you’ll find a bit of solace in the vibrant colors of the outdoors as a contrast to whatever neutral color your desk probably is.
2. Food and water are your friends, too.
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve forgotten a meal or spent hours not hydrating because I was so engrossed in my “creative process”, I’d be a very rich woman. There is no! need! to challenge the fact that we need food and water to survive. No need! For the quantitative folks: 3-5 meals and around 8 cups of water a day is ideal intake. Keep a checklist if you need to; it’ll feel good to cross an item off a to-do list that’s as simple as drinking a glass of water. For everyone else, please remember to pause and listen to your body, and to nourish it as it needs. Your brain and spirit will thank you.
3. Leave it be.
It is more than okay–in fact, it is beneficial–to leave a project that isn’t working, in order to allow yourself to refresh your mind for a moment. Even with a tight deadline, there is more benefit than not in taking a step away from a project that’s giving you stress in order to restore your mind and come back fresh. Brain breaks are absolutely necessary. Even machines need time to reboot. We are certainly not machines, but if they can’t function without rest, I’m not sure why we expect ourselves to.
4. Phone a friend.
In the era of musical collaborations, I can think of no better way to bring the creative process back to life than to bring other people into the mix. Phone a friend for advice. Invite someone over for a meal, and have them listen to that hook you can’t seem to get right. Professional musician or completely tone-deaf confidant, they’ll probably have something of value to tell you. Music is for audiences, so there’s no harm in inviting an audience into the process a little bit early.
5. Call upon divine intervention.
This could mean a moment of meditation, or it could mean putting on “Formation” by Beyonce. When you’re creating something, it’s so, so important to remember that there are forces that are so much bigger than you are, forces that are meant to inspire and redirect you onto a path of inspiration, of continued betterment. Listen to music from artists that you’d like to emulate. Spend a moment in silence, reflecting on the artist you were and who you will become. Remind yourself of why you do this. Thinking bigger than yourself will strengthen you to create bigger than yourself.
Health of the mind, body, and spirit are all so vital to keep in mind when you’re creating. All of us here at 6/8 Music care about you, artists and creators, and we just want to remind you to care for yourselves in the very same way. Reach out for guidance when you need to, take all the time you need to reflect, and please, for the love of all that is good in the world, remember to drink some water.
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