Staying inspired while staying home

Just feeling a need to vent a bit. The pandemic feels like it will never be over and I’m frustrated. It’s been about 11 months since the first big round of COVID cases. 11 months of mostly staying home, avoiding people and being miserable. Even though my country has been doing fine compared to many others.

My duo project with a friend was put on an indefinite break. We couldn’t achieve what we were looking for and we were frustrated because we knew there wouldn’t be any gigs in the near future. Also, my friend belongs to a COVID risk group, so seeing them was always taking a calculated risk.
At first I enjoyed my newfound freedom, I was bubbling with ideas I could execute now that my gear and schedule were not tied to any specific time and place.
But I don’t feel like making music. My OT demandingly stares at me on the table and my A4 and AR are packed in their cases, screaming to me: “BE CREATIVE!” There is a bunch of keyboards stashed in our walk-in closet, gathering dust. And some of my hardware is still over at my friend’s place because I haven’t been able to arrange a ride to haul everything home.

I have ideas but at the same time I feel uninspired and dull. I don’t feel like taking any gear out, arranging and connecting cables or even just playing an instrument. I’ve been thinking about renting a rehearsal room to separate my creative space from my workspace (I currently work from home), but I’m not sure if I can afford it.

How do you stay inspired when you have to stay home? And how do you overcome the spiral of guilt that forms when you know that you have the equipment to express yourself but you won’t - and then you feel bad about yourself and even less inspired.

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I think this is something many people here can relate to, a lot of those feelings would be there at times for many people even without the pandemic.

I think it’s only natural that creativity has at times taken a back seat during the last crazy 12 months or so, even though I’m also in the extremely lucky position that my country or the people closest to me haven’t been struck as badly by the pandemic as many others.

However, like many people here, I’m also someone who NEEDS to create SOMETHING regularly. So what I sometimes do is take whatever machine is giving me the most demanding stare and just frigging go crazy with it. I’m talking just blasting pure noise with it, the most distorted, pushed-to-the-limits kind of sounds that my ears can take. Sometimes it can be more subtle and gentle, but even then I’m trying to get immersed into the SOUND - not think about creating a song by any means and definitely not thinking sound DESIGN either.

Sometimes that leads to ideas for actual songs but most often not and that’s ok. Usually it’s cathartic and it’s often just easier for me to “breathe” for the next couple of days. Also a lot easier to pick up that machine the next time and maybe focus more on the song writing side of things.

On the other hand, I think the saying “you can’t force creativity” isn’t totally accurate. Yes, sometimes songs just happen and sometimes you can’t make a song even if your life depends upon it. BUT if you don’t give yourself the chance to write a song by picking up your guitar, synth, sampler or laptop, you’re not very likely to write any songs. Few of us are mastermind composers in the sense that they write the songs in their heads and just sit down to write them down.

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Honestly, I’ve been through most of the states of mind You mention, and my solution, as trivial as it may seem, is to go for a walk. Unfortunately I don’t really have a possibility of a walk in nature anywhere in a walking distance from my flat, but walking on a bridge above a highway turns out to be quite therapeutic to. And I it fits my music taste way better than a forest lol.

As for gear “screaming at You to be creative”, my solution is to leave everything connected at all times (dunno if that’s a possibility for You), and just turn it on when I really have an urge to twist some knobs. This, plus having maximum of 3 projects started in DAW at the same time really works for me. Not to say that I put out finished tracks every other day, but at least the guilt went away, and it’s fun again!

Other than that, having another “full time hobby” really helps. I’m really into coffee brewing, so when I can’t seem to get any sounds to work together, I just go and start tweaking my drip proportions again, which works well to clear my mind. And tastes delicious!

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it will. the main economic impact of pandemic is yet to come. governments eventually will find that lockdowns are not affordable anymore.

Hello fellow countryman, judging by your nick at least. We truly have it pretty good here, although the current situation in the southern regions is somewhat alarming.

I used to apply the “just make some noise” technique a lot. But nowadays I find it more frustrating than liberating. Maybe I’ve grown as an artist to the point that my need to create for creation’s sake has been replaced by a need to execute a vision or realise an idea. Or then it’s just the perfectionist in me getting worse due to the overall stressful situation I’m in individually and we’re in as a society. I mean, executing a vision shouldn’t take all the fun out of music making, so maybe I should try using this method more again, just to get pumped, so to speak.

Generally speaking I’ve become more confident in my skills, to the point that I don’t need to have a PERFECT composition or a PERFECT mix compared to someone else, and I’m not afraid to actually release music anymore. I used to think of myself as an incompetent hobbyist but nowadays I’m more like a “pro-amateur”. But I feel a strong need to have a tangible idea or a concept in order to reach that level.
For example, recently I made some sounds for a friend for his art project. He wanted “just some shitty drone” so I played around in Ableton, making feedback loops and horrible sounds and then sampled some social service & healthcare reform speak (you probably know what I’m talking about) to make it extra dull and alienating. And everyone thought it was great. :smiley: And even though it was all just for fun, I don’t know if it would have happened without the single idea and vision my friend’s art project has.

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Yes, to me walking is like meditation. It clears my thoughts, sharpens my senses and helps me sleep. Last year I walked more than in years, because it was usually my only chance to get out of the house and be alone, since I live with my significant other and a cat. But often I find that when I’m out and walking, I come up with all these ideas, sometimes even full songs, lyrics and all. And when I get back home, it all fades away and my mind somehow reorients itself into a non-creative position. I’ve tried writing things down so I won’t forget them. But then I forget about the notes, find them after months or years and wonder what they were about.
I think working from home has had an impact on this. The room where I can have my gear (or at least some of it) out is where I also do my daily work. So I’m associating the surroundings with the daily grind and work stress, not an inspiring space.

I’ve been dreaming of a setup that would be always ready to go by just switching it on. But so far it has been impossible, mostly because of restricted space.

Basically these are the reasons why I’m considering getting an actual rehearsal space again. I used to have one, but it was so far away that getting there was complicated, especially if I had to haul gear with me.

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My mum gave me a print of this letter when I was studying at art school and was feeling uninspired. I don’t have the print any more but still read it occasionally. Do: Sol LeWitt’s Electrifying Letter of Advice on Self-Doubt, Overcoming Creative Block, and Being an Artist – Brain Pickings

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Hope You’ll find a way to overcome the stuff You’re talking about! My gear is also set up in the same small room I study/work in, but I found out that keeping it under pieces of material when I’m not using it helps not only to stop the dust from setting on them, but also to clearly distinguish work time and play time.

Obviously I can’t speak for you but I spent about ten years thinking in those lines and ended up creating absolutely nothing. :grinning:

Nowadays I’m less concerned about fulfilling a grand vision or having an all-encompassing concept before I ”get to work” with writing music. Once there’s sound, a seed planted, the vision will emerge as well. Maybe 90% of the time when I play an instrument I have the mindset of writing songs but it usually starts with a blank slate and improvisation. Once I get going, I pretty soon have an idea about where the track is heading and what the arrangement is going to be like. Yeah that can change dramatically but the bottom line is I have to physically show up and pick up an instrument to be creative.

If one is a professional musician I understand it might feel like a waste of time if a session doesn’t produce anything worthwhile but for me, having spent a decade waiting for divine intervention and that huge spark of inspiration, I’ve learned to appreciate even the less productive sessions I’ve done. Time spent with an instrument will pay back at some point, I think.

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This is great - I hadn’t seen this before so thanks for posting. Much of it really resonates and especially enjoyed ideas like “Try and tickle something inside you” and "Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool "! Also it refers to Eno’s Oblique Strategies, which are always good to rediscover.

I sometimes think of the advice for exercise when feeling unmotivated, which is ‘just turn up’. Le Witt’s ‘Do’ sounds similar.

I find thinking about the end goal can sometimes feel inhibiting too so I sometimes approach making music in terms of ‘goal-less experimentation’, without worry about the end result.

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Very difficult. like working at home.
We don’t value sufficiently the act to going to work “psychologically” …

It is the same for music creation.
I need to move so I regularly extract myself from my current environment to find inspiration and simply “the desire to”, like today I go there and I do that. Very effective

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I see this as both of us currently approaching the same point from different directions, seeking balance. I mean, I’m not waiting for a magnum opus to be ready inside my head and then just pour it out. I jam a lot, I try to be playful, I love using randomness and generative techniques etc. But at some point I felt like I was only making a mess, or rather a series of messy things without coherence. Then for a short while I ended up on the other end of the spectrum, expecting perfect creations from the imperfect being that is me.

It’s a fine line between being overly self-criticizing and choosing to work on what you honestly feel is the good stuff. And I believe it is, like you pointed out earlier, something all of us occasionally struggle with.

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This is something I’ve been self-reflecting on for the past two years, even before the pandemic age and remote work being the new normal. My job includes some creative aspects, mostly writing, and those aspects are a constant, neverending process. So in a way I’m working even when I’m not working and I need to consciously switch off from work mode to get a moment of calm. Remote work has made it even harder.

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Yeah. Essentially the most difficult advice, and the only advice, is just do it.

When you’re down in the dumps its the last thing you wanna hear, but knowing artists who I love and who are renowned are going through the same shit all the time really helps me…

Some of this reminds me of Obliquely Productive. It’s an app, a series of digital cards with clever questions designed to make you (re-)evaluate your goals and methods. The app also forces you to actually reflect on its contents: if you just flick through the cards, it asks you if you’re trying to get unstuck or just procrastinating.

I’ve been feeling like this a lot lately. I have a three month old daughter, working from home in a relatively small Toronto condo. Routine and not getting out as much has really stifled my creativity, and even when I sit at my A4/AR set-up, I’ll sometimes just play my loops over and over again and not get anything done, until my wife asks for my help with something.

I’ve found listening to new music (on here, shared by others) or on Spotify inspiring. Whether it’s picking up on new drum/synth sounds or song structures, I always find it gives me something to take back to my setup and try out myself. It often turns into something completely different.

I’ve also found I’m most creative in the morning, so I try to wake up an hour earlier than normal, slam back some coffee and see what I can come up with. I’m usually too beat at the end of the day to get anything done.

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Oblique strategies it is a Brian Eno’s idea:

http://stoney.sb.org/eno/oblique.html

Truly inspiring!

That’s a good point. Identifying the most productive time of the day. I also find mornings better for creativity. Later on, I can do the mundane stuff.

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Getting into a good morning routine has helped me a lot, where I usually have around an hour to mess around and sometimes get something going. No matter how productive that time is, I’m usually pretty fired up about it when I have to stop that and start working (from home).

During the workday I listen to music or put on youtube videos of live performances or gear demos/reviews. I often check out videos of people performing with some gear I have to help me get inspired. By the end of the work day all I want to do is make music if I didn’t already.

I hate to say it, but getting new gear or software has been what has driven me to make music the most lately. If you can afford it, a new synth or something fun can make it a lot easier to want to make tunes. Or sell some stuff that isn’t precious to you and switch things up a bit.

After a stressful year holding down my job, I treated myself to a couple nice plugins, a new reverb pedal, and most recently got into modular stuff thanks to getting an 0-coast. I also sold some stuff I’ve had for a long time to help fund it, and switching things up has felt nice and I have been making music with every free moment because there is so much to explore.

Tldr; get into modular, sell something old like a kidney if you need to help fund it, and you’ll have plenty to keep you going.

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Feels. I have an 8 and 4 year old, and while it’s easier in some ways, new things you didn’t expect pop up. There’s always SOMETHING. To. Do. Around the house. Be it the kids, or the pets, or just re-arranging something or taking out trash or whatever. I’ll get MAYBE fifteen minutes a clip to play around with an iOS app or the Cycles, and then something is going on.

I think this is most what I miss about going to work physically. Time on the commute (as much as that sucked) was MY time.

You’re in good company man. Probably a good idea to get up earlier, but my kids are already up so damn early lol…

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