One of the biggest concerns I hear from other composers is “I have such a hard time finding the time to compose. I have to work a regular job and seem to run out of hours in the day.”
With the exception of those fortunate few who have the privilege of composing full-time, most of us are in the same boat. We all have to pay the bills by often working a job that isn’t directly related to our love of writing music.
Finding time to write is a challenge for many of us. We all have the same twenty-four hours in the day, but how we use that twenty-four hours is drastically different from one person to the next.
I’d like to say there is some magic formula to add a couple of extra hours in the day, but I’d be lying if I did. The reality of it is it comes down to certain choices. We need to set priorities and spend our time doing the things we truly value. It really defines who we are. Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” If we want to “be” a composer, we need to compose. The problem is, we don’t always feel energized and consequently we are not always fruitful in our compositional endeavors.
We can’t add hours to the day, but we can renew our mind, body and spirit. We can make choices that help us to be refreshed and ready to create.
- Try to compose at a regular time. If you work 8-5, there are only a few choices. Can you find an uninterrupted 1 or 2 hours?
- Make a realistic plan. Don’t set yourself for failure by saying, “I’m going to get up and compose from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m., jog from 5 a.m. –5:30 a.m., eat, shower and go to work, pick the kids up from school, write again from 9-11 p.m. and then get up and do it all over again. Make a realistic and doable plan.
- Be willing to adjust as you go. Life has a certain ebb and flow. Realize that if you run into a conflict, you may need to adjust your schedule to accommodate life. Maybe you have to move your time for a few days from the morning to the evening or to a Saturday morning. Go with the flow. Just avoid putting it off altogether. An adjustment here and there is just fine.
- Understand that you CAN’T do it all. If you try, you’ll get your life turned upside down emotionally, physically, spiritually, professionally and musically. For myself, if I have a deadline, I give up the non-essentials for a while. For instance, I may give up television for a week or two, sometimes longer, in order to free up another half hour in the day.
- Be sure that you don’t run yourself ragged. Sleep well and sleep regularly. The value of sleep is underappreciated. You can keep yourself going for a time with coffee and Red Bull, but eventually you are going to crash, AND CRASH HARD! At that point, you will become completely unproductive and end up wasting a week or two recovering or, worse, become ill. It’s very much akin to giving up candy for Lent and then gorging yourself for the 50 days following Easter until you weigh 60 pounds more than when you started.
- Find balance in your schedule. Do things that make you feel good in the long run. Rest, recreate, eat well, sleep well, compose, etc . . . If you sit in front of the TV or Playstation for 2-3 hours every night for 6 months, you will start to think only about TV and the Playstation. Trust me! I know this from personal experience. You probably will be able to compose odd unimaginative ostinati that sound strangely familiar to you favorite television theme or game, but in other aspects of composing you will be lacking. Ultimately, you have to make the choice of what is important to you.
- Get out of the house or apartment. Find a green space. Walk! Really examine the world around you. Read a book outside. Enjoy a 7-Up or sparkling water in the park. Breathe and take it all in! Remember garbage in = garbage out. Fill your body, mind and spirit with good things. The mind/body/spirit connection affects “the Muse.” Nurture all three!
Most of the time we can’t “find” time to compose because we are “exhausted” from our daily schedule. We run ourselves ragged and by the end of the day all we want to do is crash in front of the TV and eat Cheetoes. By regulating one’s life, we create new pockets of energy in our day and, if you choose, develop new priorities.
Take care of your mind, body and spirit. Feed your mind with knowledge, wisdom and challenges. Nurture your body with rest, exercise and healthy eating. Renew your spirit through, meditation, quiet time or prayer. You will find that by taking care of yourself, you undoubtedly will desire to do things that are creative and artistic.
Good luck in your renewal and in your writing!