One of the things we composers struggle with most is motivation. This is something I experienced firsthand throughout my time in undergrad. Especially while working on longer projects, it’s easy to get lost in the process, feel stuck and wonder if and when you’re ever going to finish writing. Add on top of that all of our other life responsibilities, and it’s easy to let composing slip to the bottom of our priorities when it feels like we’re making so little progress.
It’s no secret that a lack of motivation to compose can have many different causes — stress about other things on our plates, feeling stuck on whatever piece we’re writing, a lack of good ideas, or simply too much effort. If only we can actually get started, we can get so much done.
What can we do to re-motivate ourselves when we find ourselves in a drought? Here are a few things I’ve discovered or learned from my mentors.
Write a little bit every day
Even if you don’t feel like it, even if you don’t have time, try to write a little bit every single day. Even if it’s just one measure — or one note. Get into the habit of sitting at the piano, or grabbing a blank page, or opening Finale every. Single. Day. Sometimes, the hardest part is having the motivation to get started. This eliminates that barrier.
Feel like you have no idea what to write next? Just listen to your piece. Listen to what you have all the way through. Listen while you’re making dinner or folding laundry or scrolling through Instagram. Stop thinking so hard and your mind just might fill in the rest for you.
Know yourself — but don’t box yourself in
I focus best first thing in the morning. Therefore, I try to compose in the morning. Easy enough, right?
This has been the death of me since I moved last month.
Every morning it’s “I’m too stressed about work” or “I’m working on other things” or “I overslept” or “it’s too late now” or “darn, I got distracted and now it’s ruined.” No it’s not! You can’t wait for perfect conditions in order to magically be motivated. You have to create motivation for yourself.
Which leads to…
Surround yourself with motivation
I read a blog post recently about how motivation isn’t a product of our personality, but of our environment. Surrounding yourself with people and things that motivate you makes it easier to get into a productive mindset. For me, a morning with a motivational book or article is enough to motivate me to get stuff done. You know yourself better than anyone — you probably already know what motivates you to achieve your goals. Use it to your advantage!
Sometimes, getting over that motivational barrier is all you need to get back into the groove. I spent a month being too lazy to open Finale, then when I finally did, I doubled what I had previously written. Don’t let a lack of motivation stop you from reaching your goals!