Songwriters and musicians are not exempt from mental fatigue and burnout. In fact, music creators are among the most overworked people in the labor force, as pointed out in one study by the Help Musicians UK charity a few years ago. According to that report, a staggering 60% of musicians fall victim to depression and other psychological issues as a result of touring and other stresses.
In light of the above facts, it’s not hard to see why artists and songwriters regularly have mental and physical breakdowns. And while many take steps to preserve their physical health, the same cannot be said about the mental side of things, even though having and maintaining a sharp mind is one of the main pillars of creativity.
If you’ve been forgetting things lately or constantly falling into a creative rut, don't worry, you're not going crazy; it could just be a case of mental dullness. So, what are some of the things you can do to keep your mind sharp for making music?
Use memory aids
A good memory is not just great for remembering where you put your keys, it’s also useful if you write songs and play music. Imagine constantly struggling to remember song ideas as a songwriter. It would be pretty difficult to sustain a music career. Or, worse, forgetting the words to your own songs while on stage. The funny thing is, these scenarios actually happen in real life, to real musicians.
Memory sharpness is crucial, even for things such as taking along the right gear for performances and remembering choreography routines. Yet, as you get older, your memory naturally starts to fade. A few aids you can use to boost your memory include:
- Playing puzzle games such as crosswords and Sudoku
- Brain training games, such as those found on Lumosity
- Using devices, implements, and software that help you to remember, such as calendars, creating lists, storing numbers and emails in your phone’s address book, utilizing maps, and using planners.
- Using creative mnemonics to shorten phrases and sentences, as well as to recall events, dates, and activities.
Learn something new
Whether it is learning a new language, taking on an instrument you’ve never played before, or setting your sights on an academic pursuit, scientists believe learning new skills help to stimulate parts of the brain that might be underused. Going to new places and gaining new experiences may also lead to new ideas and an improvement in mental sharpness. Bottom line, exposing your mind to anything new, from time to time, is a good way to keep the cobwebs out of your head.
Unplug from it all
There is a famous song title that 'a change will do you good.' Similarly to learning something new, getting away from the stress and humdrum of daily, routine living, can also have a positive effect on your mental upkeep. Take some time off from making music or performing, hit the beach, put up your legs and let someone else worry about the bills if possible. Whatever the case, unplugging from it all is a good way to hit the reset button, so to speak, and give your mind some time to reboot back to optimal performance.
Invest in sleep
There have been plenty of studies on the link between sleep and physical and mental well-being, with many pointing to the need for people to get good quality sleep daily. Getting 7-8 hours, or more, of restful sleep helps to improve cognitive function, especially as you get older. But, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 33% of Americans fail to get the recommended amount of sleep per night, with many barely getting more than a snooze. Among musicians, the number might be much higher, especially for those who perform and go on tours.
Sleep experts recommend going to bed the same time every night and curling up with a book, rather than with a smartphone or the TV, as these may delay sleep. Investing in sleep will help to improve your memory and keep you sharp.
We don't recommend this but if it’s just not possible for you to throw down eight hours of shut-eye at night, another sleep method you can try is to get short, power naps, whenever you get the chance. Renowned DJ and producer, Steve Aoki, who reportedly tours up to 300 days a year (and did the documentary "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead"), recently attested to this, mentioning that he takes several naps daily to complement his 3-4 hours of sleep.
Trying to do multiple tasks at once is actually counter-productive and counter-intuitive, not to mention taxing on the brain. Crafting lyrics and melodies out of thin air is already enough of a task, much less trying to concentrate on several other activities all at the same time. Moreover, concentrating on one task, from start to finish, makes it easier for you to recall all the important details (and your song lyrics), for future reference.
Research shows that 20 minutes or more of physical activity releases chemicals in the brain that help to promote a sense of well-being while boosting memory. In fact, experts agree that exercising is one of the best ways to improve memory, and it doesn’t have to be strenuous activity either.
A brisk 20-minute walk can do just as well as an intense aerobic session. Either way, getting in some exercise could be just what you need to keep on top of your music-making game as far as mental sharpness is concerned. And don't forget to add some music to your routine...which brings us to the final tip.
Listen to music
Ah, the best for last. It's no secret that music heals the mind like nothing else. There are numerous studies to back up the positive effects of music on mental health, especially if it's music you really enjoy. For songwriters and music creators in general, there is another benefit to listening to music, in addition to helping your mind and body relax. Listening to other people's tunes and compositions may also allow you to find songwriting inspiration, so go ahead and plug in.
Does mental fatigue affect your music creation process from time to time? Trying a few or all of these tips might just be what you need to boost your mental fortitude and help you become even better at writing and producing music. Feel free to share with a friend if you find this info helpful.