I had a really interesting set of sessions with clients last week. A good few of them came to me with the exact same problem. Sure, it was delivered in different ways, but essentially they had all fallen off track. Their creative habits of daily practice which they spent so long installing had gone out the window. Procrastination and distraction had set in, and not much productive work on music had been taking place at all!
It was coincidentally really apt considering that earlier in the exact same week, I had also fallen off. After a particularly productive couple of months, a singular day and night of partying completely derailed me. I went from smashing out 10 / 12 hour days on my projects and finishing my tracks to days of essentially sitting on the couch doing nothing.
I don’t think I’ve met a single person that this hasn’t been a problem for at one time or another. It’s been a fairly regular problem of mine over the years and after getting out of my initial stink about the whole thing I am actually pretty grateful for it as it allows me to practice getting my shit together again, so that next time it hopefully won’t take as long. With that in mind, here are my top 3 tips for getting back on the horse.
Tip #1 - Don’t beat yourself up. They say that doing nothing is the worst thing you could do - I disagree. You’re already doing nothing, the worst thing that you could do in this situation is to beat yourself up.
Anyone who has done any amount of work that requires focus, discipline and consistency will tell you that it’s totally normal to lose momentum from time to time. No one can consistently perform day in day out for the rest of their lives.
Something derailed you and that’s ok. Maybe it was in your control, maybe it wasn’t , the point is that if you chastise yourself for where you are right now the last thing you’re going to want to do is work. This will lead to more distraction, more procrastination, feeling worse about your situation, and then the cycle continues.
So, recognize that you have failed, give yourself some compassion and remember that you are a human and that you make mistakes, and get back up.
Tip #2 - Start again, and start small. Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to get back up and get to work. Awesome. Seem’s daunting doesn’t it? All that work that’s built up as you have procrastinated while time slipped away. What was once par for the course seems like a massive impenetrable task. How to deal with this? Start small. Like really fucking small.
Break whatever it is that's a challenge down into the smallest possible part that’s so easy that you can’t not do it. For me - writing this article seemed impossible. Even though I was feeling inspired to write and I’ve written way more complex things than this it was a nightmare. So I broke it down. I wrote myself a step by step process that read like this. Step One - Open my laptop. Step Two - Open Google Docs. Step Three - Write a title. Step Four - Write the first word of the title. Step Five - outline the very basic concepts I want to talk about. Etc. etc.
The key here is just to take action. You need to get SOMETHING going to rebuild momentum and start working again. So make it as easy as it could possibly be, and pretty quickly you’ll be able to snowball yourself towards knocking out those bigger goals. After all a massive task is just a whole bunch of smaller jobs to do, so pick the easiest one, and get cracking.
Tip #3 - Be clear on what you are actually trying to achieve by starting to work again, and don’t set your expectations too high.
You’ve gotta be realistic about where your at. You are most likely not in flow, and there are probably a whole bunch of things going round in your head and the added stress of getting the ball rolling again that even once you start working, you can derail your progress by putting quantity or quality judgements on your work.
An example of a quantity judgement could be “Great! I’ve started working again, but shit there’s no way I am going to get these 2 tracks finished by the end of this week now, I’ve left it too late. I might as well go and (insert distraction / procrastination here).
An example of a quality judgement could be “Great! I’m back to smashing this track out. But listen to it! It’s shit. It’s nowhere near as good as the last 3 tracks I did or (insert idol’s name) track / ep / album.
THOSE THINGS DO NOT MATTER!!! What matters is that you are learning to trust yourself to work again. Your learning to show the fuck up and do the work no matter what it takes. You need to learn how to work and be in flow state again and then you can start thinking about how good or how much you are actually doing.
Learn how to work again, and then work.
This article is already way longer than I wanted it to be so I’ll leave it there. So in summary, here’s the deal.
1 - It’s OK.
2- Just start, and start small.
3 - Don’t judge yourself, just get used to working again.
When was the last time that you fell off? How did you get the ball rolling again? Keen to hear what your experience was like.