I Spent Two Months Making Beats Everyday and All I Got Was This Blog Post
Daily practices. They’re everywhere.
So-and-so from Brooklyn meditated an hour each day for 80 days while balancing his cat on his knee. Tokyo exchange student reads Marie Kondo’s book and decides to live on a plank of plywood for 5 weeks. A couple from Los Angeles ran 10 miles a day for 30 days because they wanted to get to Vegas by foot for some conspicuous reason. Three dudes from Silicon Valley spent 20 days coding a side-project that would deliver anal beads on-demand.
… Oh! And one more.
I guess that acts as a somewhat crafty way to insert myself into this story ^_^.
From May 3rd to July 2nd, I embarked on a creative challenge that led me to create a new piece of music everyday for sixty days. It’s safe to say that I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I was inspired to do so after reading a post from a guy that wrote a piece everyday for an entire year. Despite the overwhelming number of articles and posts that exist on this topic, I always found the idea of a deliberate and focused practice to be highly intriguing. I mean, anything that could make a dude sitting alone for x number of hours for 20 straight days remotely interesting is worth checking out.
With that said, I felt that my stumble into this realm of disciplined practice was opportunely timed. Earlier this year, my well of inspiration fell to California levels of dry. It’s been through some voids before, but I noticed that this time around, I didn’t even feel the desire to refill it. I realized in May that I had three choices:
(A) Do nothing and cry,
(B) Wait for an unlikely storm to hit so that my well would catch some of the rainfall, or
(C) Build a fuckin’ inspiration pump and pump that shit out of the ground like a champ and fill that damn well of creativity MYSELF!
And then I realized another option. I could relax, sit down everyday for 60 days, and just simply… make some music. Attempt to make a beat each day. I hadn’t done it before, and maybe it would work out quite well for me. I figured that I’d have some learnings along the way, and some days would be far more difficult than the others. I anticipated that there would be some days in which I enjoyed the process, and other times where I’d be anxious and scared that I was running out of ideas. I thought that I would have a limited amount of time to dedicate to other parts of my life, so I tried to plan accordingly.
It turns out that some of my initial thoughts stayed consistent throughout the process, and others were completely off. And of course, there were things I learned along the way that I did not anticipate at all.
On July 2nd, I exported my final song, closed Reason (my beatmaking software), shut down my laptop, and gazed at the living room floor. All right. Whew. It’s over. The world’s still spinning on its axis. Okay, now what?
The immediate impulse was to write about it. However, I wanted to give myself a few months to marinate on my experience and fully comprehend the takeaways from that 60-day period. Sometimes I feel that too many folks engage in a daily practice just for the purpose of writing about it shortly after its completion. It’s kind of like having sex for the sole purpose of having an orgasm. Yeah, you came and you get to pride yourself in that, but in the end, the sex itself didn’t really matter much.
It’s now October. It’s been a little over three months since the completion of the 60-day song dump. I’ve had time to digest the experience, and also to understand the aftermath of it as well. I guess I can now say… without further ado, here are some takeaways.
Time actually becomes more abundant, but not in the way you would think
I felt myself understanding the notion of time in a different way. It’s funny. When we generally think of time, we think of it as this universal, linear spectrum that we all traverse together, regardless of who we are. It doesn’t matter if you’re Billy Money-buckets or Homeless Harriette. One second is one second. One minute is one minute. It’s currency with no exchange rate.
The measurement of time is universal, and the finiteness of it is what makes is so precious. That’s why you start getting these eye-roll worthy quotes like,
“If I could wish for one thing brah, I wish that I could have just TWO more hours in each day *insert flame emoji*” or
“When you gots no money, you gots time. But when you gots time, you gots no money. *insert new pondering, hand-on-chin face emoji from iOS 10*”
That was my first concern when I embarked on the 60 day challenge. If I’m going to spend a couple of hours each day making music while holding down a full-time job, where am I going to find the time to do the other things that make me happy? When can I grab a drink with my friends? When can I learn how to build my website? When can I stream Forensic Files to find out how that one stray ankle hair led to that dude’s conviction?
Here’s the trippy thing that I realized about time. When you spend the time to work on what you feel is making the best use of your gifts and abilities, you break the clutter of guilt and self-doubt that prevents you from being present in other moments. When that clutter is dismantled, you get to be fully aware of yourself and your surroundings, thus extracting the most out of each passing minute.
The best example I can think of to illustrate this point is my girlfriend. When I first started the challenge, I was concerned that we simply would not have any time to hang out. In fact, we probably spent less than an average of one hour each night enjoying each other’s company (usually after I finished my beat). However, let me tell you something, that one hour was AWESOME.
Before the challenge, I would spend more time with her, yes, but I always found myself thinking that I should be spending that time making music. I started feeling bad about spending time with her and not cultivating my craft, which is pretty stupid because I was putting myself in a lose-lose situation. I wasn’t being fully present with her, NOR was I even working on music! Five hours in the company of someone means nothing if you’re contemplating doing something else the whole time.
However, when I worked on music and had an extra hour that day to be with her, I was devoid of self-deprecation and cloudy thoughts. I could be present with her, and I extracted so much comfort and value from that one hour alone. That was how I grew to understand the paradox of experiencing a time surplus in the midst of scarcity.
When you’re fully “there” (even if it’s just a minute), you become in tune with time, and you can bend that motherfucker. Being present, my friends, is the ultimate way to hack the linearity of time.
Creating a Habit vs. Becoming Better. Yes, there is a difference, and it’s important to define which one is more important to you.
When I started the 60-day challenge, I wanted every beat to be awesome. Since I was posting each song on Soundcloud, I wanted each piece of music to have a narrative, incorporate multiple change-ups, blow minds, and be a showcase of what I was capable of. By the end of Day 2, I leaned back in my chair, sighed heavily and thought to myself, “Fuuuuuuuuck. This is suuuuper draining and training. Oh yeah, I got 58 more days of this shit. What the hell did I get myself into?”
I then hopped on the phone with my uber friend, No Alias (fortunately not his birthname), about a week later and he gave me some advice that really helped to steer the course of my challenge. It was so simple, but it spoke volumes. All he said was, “Dude, you gotta learn to let go man. Just let go bro.”
At that point, I realized that I had to understand what the purpose of this challenge was. Was this a 60-day crash course in becoming a better musician, or was this an exercise in creating a habit to get my creative juices flowing again? Some argue that engaging in a daily practice will naturally make you a better (fill in the blank). However, I think that seemingly empowering statement can be very misleading.
When your desire to create lies in becoming better and achieving greatness in your craft, you have to be able to experiment. You have to spend hours and hours making mistakes, determining what went wrong, trying new things, building on old techniques, sifting through different inspirations. Experimentation is a pre-requisite to greatness. Experimentation, however, is meticulous and requires a lot of that currency we call time.
When you want to build a habit though, experimentation does not matter as much. Sure, you can discover that tilting your pelvis a bit to the right can make your daily 100 push-ups easier, but in the end, you most likely won’t end up doing all 100 of your push-ups on one finger. In other words, you might come across some efficiencies while engaging in a habit, but building a routine of that particular exercise is prioritized over the absolute mastery of it.
I initially approached my 60 days as a highway towards better musicianship, but realized that I had to shift its narrative towards that of a habit-forming exercise. Attempting to make a beat each day meant that experimentation would be a low-priority item. The crucial thing was simply to be engaged in the practice. This ultimately led to a decreased level of anxiety surrounding the project, and allowed me to look forward to creating everyday. It assured me to know that the music didn’t need to be amazing, it just needed to be created from a place of discipline and flow.
So for those of you that are thinking of engaging in a daily practice, I think it’s important to ask yourself what the purpose of it is. If you see it as an exercise in mastery, then get ready to be fully engulfed in the nuances and technicalities of what it takes to see marked improvements in your craft. If you see it as a way to form a habit, then be prepared to take each day as a dedicated reminder that this craft is a growing component of your identity. Constructing purpose is the best way to maximize the takeaways from your regimen.
Stats are numbers. The numbers of reposts and plays are stats. But the people supporting you are not.
Human beings have always been intricately connected with one another, but it’s only in the last few years where everyone with an Internet connection has a worldwide platform to share their presence. With worldwide presence comes a multitude of voices, and a multitude of voices brings about a need to condense the noise into easily digestible bits. And the most efficient way to track those bits is through the use of statistics and data, in which every number is supposed to represent a story, a life. We have grown a strong affinity to those numbers, equating each one as an affirmation of our own opinions and presence as well. And I think it takes a special kind of experience to break that affinity, even if it’s just for a moment.
When I started my practice, I tried my hardest to avoid looking at the Soundcloud stats (plays, likes, reposts, etc.), knowing that it would take away from the objectivity of my experience. However, by the end of the first week, it hit me like a full on crack addiction and I went into relapse, looking at how people were reacting to my songs and seeing which ones got a marginal amount of higher plays than the other. And just to be clear, my songs weren’t getting a ton of plays. It was a few hundred here and there, some a bit more and some a lot less. As much as I didn’t want the reach of my work to matter, there was something in my mind that wanted to use the statistics as a validation or rejection of my work.
However, something really cool started happening.
There were a small number of people outside of my “physical” social circles that started leaving me comments and messages of encouragement. In fact, I know the names of those people now as if they’ve been my friends all along this journey. A simple message of “This is really great. Thank you.” and other words of encouragement from the same people made me feel that the stats were irrelevant for the course of this 60-day challenge. I didn’t need to build some sort of false audience that was constructed by repost numbers. The audience had names and faces to them, and that small group of people made it known to me that they were there.
Needless to say, as a creative and artist, it still is important to track the progress of your work through these resources. However, during most of the 60-day challenge, there was a period in which all of that really didn’t matter to me. It was a special couple of days in which I felt supported by people that didn’t just represent a number or a dot on the map of the United States. It was a powerful feeling that made me realize that this unique worldwide platform can be used to build intimate partnerships along any path. It made me realize that if those few people could give that feeling to me, I can do that for someone else as well.
When the 60-day period concluded, there wasn’t a feeling of immense relief or an intense celebratory spirit that burst out of my emotional seams. I just felt very…. still. And the great thing was that I felt an awareness in my stillness.
It was as if I traversed the final ascent of a steep mountain and reached that last clearing point where you can finally rest, take in the view, and feel the wind brush across your body. There is a calmness that overtakes you. A brief moment in time where you are completely present, understanding that you have navigated through a journey that presented a myriad of challenges, but you made it. It took a while, but you were determined, and now you can scan the traversed trail from up above. Now you can view it with a sense of peace rather than through the lenses of discipline and determination.
However, as you scan your surroundings, something catches your eye. Off in the distance, you see another mountain that seems just a bit higher… just a bit taller. It looks remarkably similar to the one you just climbed, but you can’t help to notice and think… “Hmm. I wonder what it’d be like to do that one.”
And that’s the irony of the journey. A journey ends just to become a new starting point. However, it’s that brief moment between the two that define the radiant moments in our lives. This post serves as a snapshot of that moment in which the 60-Day Challenge ended and a new ascent became known. It serves as a vivid reminder of the importance of conscious presence and the awareness of my own support systems.
Yes, the nearby mountain has already made itself known and has invited me to join it.
However, I think I’m going to stay on this peak for just a bit longer.
You can now download/listen to the result of the 60-Day Challenge by visiting my recently revamped website:
Trebles and Blues is a Los Angeles-based beatmaker that takes influence from a multitude of creative outlets.www.treblesandbluesmusic.com
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