How To: Give Up On Your Dreams & Become a Slacker (for a day or two)...
Making music is a both calling and a vocation for me. There is a subconscious onus to be writing and recording music every day. To pursue this activity is to satisfy my soul. Even in the face of failure, where my songs can fall heavily to the wayside amongst a musically rich social media climate, picking up the guitar will always mute the ticking of the clock. Composition completely and utterly occupies my mind and leaves a world of distractions behind. The meaning seems to be in the journey of creating a piece of music and not in the final play count on my web page. If you're reading this and saying, "yeah, me too. My art takes precedence over everything else in my life" then congratulations: you have an unusual capacity for optimism that some folks will never, ever (be stupid enough to) have! Be grateful: it's a gift.
Optimism at work as I sit tied to a mountainside; the only way is up!
I have been writing, recording and releasing my own music for the better part of a decade. I began songwriting in my early teens: juggling my homework with the recording of my first ever CD, taking pre-orders from my mates in the playground at lunchtime, and booking myself live shows in one of Hong Kong's major nightlife districts: Lan Kwai Fong. My mum and dad had to come to gigs with me because I was underage. We often had to leave immediately after my set! Very rock 'n roll...
January 2010 • Performing live in Hong Kong alongside my friend Kyra Santiago. Note my trendy fringe. Image from undergroundhk.com.
Being an independent, creative practitioner means not thinking twice about producing your flightiest fancies on a shoestring budget. It means juggling part time jobs to support the hours of time you invest into making your art. In my experience it is actually possible to flourish creatively in this way, despite setbacks to both a packed schedule and limited financial situation! But where do you find the time? I have always been wired with a million track mind: awake at night with music ringing in my ears, forming melodies and rhyming lyrics on my bike ride to class, or picturing patterns on the fret board of my guitar whilst I'm having a conversation with someone... I actually thought that it was pretty normal to lead a perpetually distracted life; torn between the muse and the reality of everyday commitments. Does this sound familiar? Amongst all of this activity I have, however, noticed something: the burnout is real, folks. And that's why I am introducing to you my brand new method for overcoming those days where you simply don't have enough time or focus to breathe life into your creative ideas:
Give Up On Your Dreams & Become a Slacker (for a day or two)...
Me at the foot of Gimmer crag in the Langdale Valley, officially slacking off for the day.
I'm not saying to stop working on that masterpiece. I'm not saying that you shouldn't write your journal entry for today, or sing the words to your latest song or edit your brand new video project. I am saying that you have the potential to feel fulfilled without doing those things at every possible free moment. You can get the satisfaction that you feel when you're in your zone... any and all of the time. That thing that burns in your core and itches where you can't scratch? What if you were to take a teeny tiny spark from that fire and set it alight elsewhere?
When you take the time to do something utterly novel you aren't running away from your life. You're living it! Taking a break is not running away from your to do list. When you do come back to your projects, I'll bet you will feel refreshed from having a new experience and demonstrate an even more productive and efficient workflow.
The beautiful Langdale Valley, viewed from the top of Pavey Ark.
Whilst getting up to the countryside is seemingly unrelated to my immediate focus of producing quality songs, being outdoors feeds my creativity and leaves me feeling rejuvenated and eager to get back to my creative work. Somehow having less free time to spend on music (because I'm up on a hill twice a week) has actually made me more productive when I am making music. What's going on here? Well, rather than spending every available moment on composition and recording, I have created a time scarcity. In doing this, the time I do have to be productive becomes super valuable.
Now, when I get a chance to sit in the studio and work on music, I don't want to check my phone every 5 minutes because getting distracted is going to mean making mistakes and taking twice as long to get the parts right. Whacky, huh? Try it out for yourself, honestly. I really recommend doing something new, challenging, and preferably a physical activity. Creative people are so tactile. Engaging with your body in a tangible way will positively activate your senses.
Please accept this challenge from me to you. One day this week: go out, give up on your dreams, and slack off!
'Because in the end, you won't remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.' • Jack Kerouac
Next Friday, my new song "Killing Time" is hitting the airwaves. Pre-save it here on Spotify: https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/davidshurr/killing-time