Ask Weiss: Maintaining Motivation and Overcoming Creative Blocks

Transcript:

Hey, folks. Matthew Weiss here — weiss-sound.com, theproaudiofiles.com and mixthru.co.

Welcome to the Ask Weiss series. Today’s question comes to us from Good Guy Pete via our YouTube channel, and Pete asks, “Hey, Matthew. I’ve got a question. How do you personally deal with a lack of motivation and creative blocks when it comes to making songs, and/or mixing or producing? Could you give any advice? Cheers.”

Cheers to you, Pete. That’s a great question.

Yes, I do have some advice. So, motivation is probably the single most determining factor when it comes to becoming successful and maintaining success within our careers. It’s a self-starter business, so motivation is absolutely paramount.
Motivation and creative blocks are not the same thing, so I’m going to try to answer for both of these in under five minutes, let’s see if I can do it.

So, motivation is about lifestyle more than anything else. I did find myself at one point having a lot of difficulty with being motivated, and the reasoning for this was I was on a terrible sleep schedule. I was going to bed at three o’ clock in the morning, waking up at noon, and working the entire time in between.
That’s not a good schedule for being alive. It’s definitely not good for motivation, it’s not good for being happy, and when you’re not happy, it’s really hard to be productive.

On top of that, the entire time that I was working, I was just sitting at a desk. Like, ten to twelve hours a day, day in, day out. I was not being physically active. It’s very easy to ignore the importance of physical activity, but a humongous change in terms of my own ability to be motivated came when I started forcing myself to exercise. Even doing like, twenty minutes a day as opposed to nothing, huge difference. You just got to get that blood circulating. It’s so important, I can not put words to it.

Then, the other thing is that as people, we all have our own brain chemistry, and this is going to kind of sound like a joke, but it’s really not. For the longest time, I was having trouble finding energy, and the reason being, I’m just the type of person who needs a little bit of caffeine in the morning to get going. This existed before I even started drinking coffee. It really was a humongous change in my life when I started having a cup of coffee in the morning.

Other people are different. Some people need ritalin or adderal to help them focus, because they’re so energetic, they have difficulty focusing in.

So, you know, being aware of your own natural chemistry – and that can apply to all sorts of things. It can apply to what you eat. Some people, if they don’t have sugar in their diet, they can’t get energy. Some people, if they have sugar in their diet, they immediately crash and become very lethargic.

So you have to be aware of your own personal needs when it comes to your own brain chemistry, as weird as that sounds.

But anyway, the bottom line is motivation comes down to your lifestyle, and having motivation takes a certain amount of discipline to have a lifestyle that’s conducive to being successful in our career.

Anyway. Creative blocks. So, creative blocks come from not being interested in what’s in front of us, and that can be tough to work through, because when you’re bored and something is tedious, you don’t want to do it. It’s hard to find – and it could happen for a lot of reasons.

It could be because the record is repetitive, or the performance is really lackluster, or the lyrics aren’t really giving you anything that you like, so there is a lot of stuff that can get in the way of whatever that core, creative spark was that inspired the artist to begin with, and that’s the gem that we’re really trying to find.

So, the first thing that I like to do is just first of all, just try and switch my mentality on things. It’s very easy to point out things that we don’t like and focus on those. It’s a little more challenging and a little more productive to focus on the things that we do like. To dig deep and find something that we really love about a record.

Sometimes it’s tricky! But starting there, and trying to take a positive approach is already going to shed off huge layers and obstacles when it comes to creative blocks.

Then, the other thing is that we can look at the things that we don’t like as challenges. As an intellectual stimulant to say, “Okay, this is really repetitive. How do I make it not feel repetitive?”

Now, suddenly I’m starting to think in a creative way. “Okay, maybe I could do some kind of automation with filters. Maybe I could bring in some interesting delays, or some different distortions and textures that come in and out, that make this thing that keeps repeating sound different now.”

So, those are a few ways just within that. Then, one of the other ways is to possibly separate yourself from the task at hand.

One of the YouTube commenters said, “Walk in the forest.” Actually, that’s not a bad idea. Taking a stroll somewhere can sometimes be really good for the creative process. Our subconscious continues to work on things, even when we’re not working on stuff, so I’ll take a walk and I’ll come back 45 minutes later, and I’ll mix down a record in two or three hours. I’ll just go there and I’ll nail it, and the reason is because my brain is just working the record out as I’m walking around and not focusing on it. That inactive focus, that subconscious is a little more direct sometimes than our conscious tweak type of brain.

So, that can be really useful, or going to a different source for inspiration. Directly speaking, we could go to some music that maybe you’ve heard about, but you haven’t had a chance to listen to. For me, that was The Weekend a couple of years ago. I really, really like the way that those records are mixed and that interpretation of R&B. That was really inspiring for me.

Or, it could be things like photography, or paintings, or books, or literature, or movies, although I don’t really recommend movies and TV, because the way they hit you can kind of slow your creativity down, but anything can be a source of creativity, and separating yourself from the task at hand can really be a useful way to get over a creative block.

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is a Grammy nominated and Spellemann Award winning audio engineer from Philadelphia. Matthew has mixed songs for Snoop, Sonny Digital, Gorilla Zoe, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development, 9th Wonder, !llmind & more. Get in touch: Weiss-Sound.com.
Smiley face
Recommended