Motivation: What I Learned From Writing a Song a Day for 120 Days
For the past 120 days I composed and recorded an original studio quality song. Now everything I am about to say is only credible if you believe the songs are great. Listen to a few of them so you have an idea of what was being made. The primary focus of this article is to discuss how to stay creatively motivated when doing a seemingly impossible task.
Every week I would write 6 songs. The instrumentation is purely one acoustic guitar, and a loop pedal (with some suspended cymbal). I took Monday’s off to relax and catch up on anything in my personal life, although in the end it just turned into working on the project. At the halfway point I took a week off to regain sanity and finish up a record with my other band Shit Ghost.
This was my average day:
- Livestream the Composition Process (30–60 mins)
- Record: (2–3 Hours)
- Mix and Master (2–3 Hours)
- Upload and any Miscellaneous Butt Work (30 Mins)
On average it was a 7 hour daily commitment. When I started the project in February, I was excited and somewhat mentally prepared for what I was trying to accomplish. What I did not expect was the intense mental toll that it would take on my brain, and the physical toll on my body. For those 7 hours, both the right and left side of my brain felt like they were going full bore. While writing and arranging the song took a lot of creative energy, the recording/mixing/mastering really worked my analytical side.
The first week went well, the second week went okay, but by the third week I had reached a point where I felt it was never going to end. My personal life was beginning to suffer, due to the massive time commitment. It was difficult to remain mentally present around others, for my mind was always thinking about what I had to do next for the project.
I began having massive mood swings. The smallest thing would send me over the edge. I would scream at the top of my lungs exactly like the Tourettes Guy (only real), when I could not play a part right, which was often because if we are being honest my guitar skills are sub par.
I was tired all of the time, I had no sex drive, I would barely eat, and I was having trouble communicating effectively. Like I couldn’t speak in coherent sentences.
I operated in this state for the next 100 days.
On the very last stream, as I was playing this final melody that I like to put into many of my songs as a symbol to close the project, I started to cry. I still don’t know what emotion it was. Kind of happy, sad, relieved, but I cried and that video is below.
It was the most artistically drained I have ever been. I do feel it was a turning point for me to grow as an artist and a person. I was able to find a unique sound of my own. Now for the lessons learned.
I truly think these tips are all unique, and useful motivation tips. Nothing you will find on wiki-how for “Motivation Tips.”
- Your Schedule is Your Friend: Before I started to project, I had literally ever hour of my day planned out from January 31st to June 26th. This was crucial. If the schedule is set up for success, and you follow the schedule, you will be successful.
- Involve Others in your Process: I decided to livestream the composition process. This held me accountable, as well as provided a sort of time stamp for the songs. Despite there only being a handful of people watching, it forced me to stick to the schedule as to not disappoint them, or sacrifice the integrity of the project. If you are one of the people who tuned into the livestream everyday, from the bottom of my heart thank you. I truly believe I could not have made it through without you.
- Tell Everybody About It: I take a lot of pride in being somebody that does what they say they are going to do. I blasted the project on Social Media, told everybody I knew despite sounding like an insane person. If the next social gathering I attended a fellow comrade asked me how to project went and I had to say “I didn’t finish it because *insert bad excuse here* I would feel like a totally nimrod, and would literally want to die.
- Sleep Less: There are only so many hours in the day. When I first began the project I would strive for the 8 hours. I found myself accomplishing far less, and my stress levels were much higher throughout the day. Little tasks add up. Sleep Less.
- Drink Less Beer: I am not against drinking my any means. However, what I found throughout the project that it was subtly hindering me in a way that only made things unnecessarily difficult and stressful. For example, when I would start mixing I would crack a warm one alone. Not getting hammered or anything, but this could turn a 3 hour task into a hour without even realizing. Even more importantly, (redering back to tip 4) it affected my work the next day. If I drank a fair amount the night before (which was most nights) I was not able to wake up at an efficient time, or with a fully functional brain. Trying to be creative when you are hungover is near impossible.
What I would have done differently.
Less Days: While the purpose of the project was to do a bunch of songs in succession and push myself to my creative limits, I do not feel it was good for the creative process. You need time of to reflect on what you have made. Most of these songs I have not listened to after I uploaded them. Also, my favorite songs are the ones I made on Tuesday, after my day off.
Better Setup: I did all the videos with an Iphone, and recorded all the music with an old ass 2 channel interface in my dripping wet basement. This made the process more stressful, as things did not always work properly. Also in the video quality is not as great as it could have been if I had a proper set up to record live sound instead of just the phone mic. I feel it would have been worth it to save the money and invest it in a proper set up.
Taken Better Care of Health: I have never been a very healthy person, but this project really took a toll physically. It is personally very hard for me to eat when I am in a creative mindset. There were a couple cases where I did not eat anything for over 48 hours, with the exception of coffee and Rainer. I lost a lot of weight, I din’t exercise, and I never relaxed. This only made it more difficult to create when the body is essentially in starvation mode.
Best of Record. Over the next month or so I am going to listen to the songs, and take input from listeners as well, and compile them into a sort of Best Of album of the project. I won’t record anything new, but I will go back and spend more time on the mix and make sure the sound quality is very good. You can pre-order that now and get the entirety of the project for $1.20 on Bandcamp, including my first two little EP’s i put out a few years ago. That is 132 songs.
I feel like this project really helped me find a unique sound, and a corner of space in the New Age Music genre. After some time off, I will be writing a new age album from scratch, inspired by some of the melody’s of these songs, and be shooting for my first grammy. I know that sounds crazy but that’s the path I feel I need to go down.
Any questions shoot me an email!