When it comes on to songwriting, the activity is one that often demands some amount of concentration, even for those considered to be gifted musicians. Gifted or not, keeping focused when writing a song can be a big challenge. In previous articles, we have talked about how to handle songwriter’s block. But what about staying focused amidst noise and countless other distractions faced on a daily basis? More importantly, how do you remain in control of your workflow based on the way you create? If you have ever struggled to keep focus when working on a piece of music, keep reading for some tips.
Everyone’s work process is different. For one songwriter, a songwriting session could mean being locked away in a room with just a pen, paper, and a guitar, while for another, it could be scanning through a playlist for song ideas while out on a train ride. It could be something totally different for your creative way of operating. But whatever it is, you need to figure out what best works for you – what instruments and tools you are most comfortable with, the things that are helpful in spurring creative thoughts, and the steps that get you through rough patches. Once you have figured out your own process, it will become easier to understand your limitations and how to use your strengths to get the most out of your creative sessions.
It is easy to go down a YouTube rabbit hole browsing hours of unboxing videos for the latest gadgets, or get lost in your Twitter stream checking on the top trending hashtags, or even get stuck liking all the images on your Instagram feed. Social media and the internet are two of the most popular examples of distractions that impact our daily lives and which can seriously cut into your productivity. They can steal your time and, before you know it, an entire day, week, or month has passed and you are nowhere near to achieving your songwriting goal. Other distractions include games, people who impose on your space, and activities you might enjoy doing that are not related to your work.
Dealing with whatever distraction that comes your way is important if you are to keep focused when writing a song. This involves being conscious of the distractions in the first place, and making a concerted effort to remove them from your workspace. Turn off your smartphone and leave behind gadgets that are not necessary in your creative sessions. Set boundaries and let people know when you are off-limits and when you are available to give them your attention. Once you have mastered cutting away distractions, you will see your ability to stay focused improve significantly.
Sometimes having a destination working towards to can make it easier to focus on what you are doing. Creating a schedule that sets definite times is a great way to hold yourself accountable. A daily schedule helps you map out how you are going to spend your productive hours, from the amount of time you are going to spend on meals and relaxation, to how much you are going to use for songwriting. To make it more interesting, you can set a goal for the amount of songwriting content you want to produce during your productive hours. Having that goal in mind is sometimes enough to have you deeply focused on getting the results.
Have lots of stuff to do? Many songwriters work at multiple jobs or have numerous daily responsibilities which demand their attention. Having several things on your plate does not mean time for songwriting should suffer. At the same time, you should not try to multitask. There is much evidence suggesting that multitasking causes more harm than good. In fact, multitasking can lead to burn out, anxiety, and stress. Moreover, it does not always lead to getting more work done; the opposite is true in many cases.
A better approach is to prioritize what needs to get done first. Put your most crucial tasks at the top of the list and those that are less important at the bottom. It is up to you to decide where on that list songwriting falls. But if it is something you are doing as a professional pursuit, setting aside time for creating should be pretty high up on your priority list. With that said, once you have organized your priorities, proceed to strike off one after the other. This approach will keep you more organized and aid your ability to focus, rather than trying to take on everything at once.
How conducive is your work area to the actual work that you do? If you have to get up every few minutes to go for different things you might need for a songwriting session, your focus will keep breaking. If you are surrounded by clutter, it will also be difficult to concentrate. The same is true if your work area is disorganized or uncomfortable.
To get the most out of every songwriting session, it is critical that you set up your workspace so that it is conducive to your craft. Spend time optimizing your workspace by removing things that are only causing clutter. Get comfortable furniture, especially an ergonomic work chair. Organize your songwriting implements such as instruments, music player, pen, paper, etc. in a way that you have easy access to them without having to leave the work area. If you tend to have snacks or refreshments during songwriting sessions, be sure to have them close at hand as well. The more comfortable you are, the easier it is to zero in on what you are doing.
It might sound counter-intuitive, but there is music available that helps boost your focus on what you are doing. From classical compilations and videos featuring upbeat music for songwriting to binaural beats, there are tons of playlists online that can help you focus, especially when writing lyrics. Of course, this won’t necessarily work for every songwriter, but you can grab a pair of headphones and try a few pieces of productivity music to see if any works for you.
Writing a song can be an intense venture, especially if you are emotionally invested in a particular song idea. But if you are focusing on the same thing for an extended period, it can lead to your brain getting tired. Try to remind yourself to take regular breaks that allow you to pace your session. In addition, taking breaks can allow you to break up fruitless trains of thought and even get new perspectives that make for better songwriting. You can tie in these breaks when creating the schedule mentioned above. Or you can set a timer that goes off at certain intervals (maybe every hour) as a reminder to take a break.