In my last article "3 Ways to get out of a Songwriting Rut," I mentioned that every artist has at one time in their life been stuck in a "rut." Well, this article is not an expansion of that topic and won't discuss "How to get out of a rut," rather it will help you on "How to surpass all ruts."
If you were born and raised in modern society, than it is likely that the majority of your day is spent thinking about the past or future. Asking questions like, "Why didn't I do that?" for the past or perhaps, "This is my goal and how I'm going to reach it" for the future. Now I'm in no way shape or form saying this is a bad thing...it's never bad to learn from the past or plan for your future. However, with that said, when we are writing music and composing we have to be absolutely present in that particular moment. That doesn't mean you can't write on topics that have previously happened or are yet to come into existence, but it is essential to understand that the muse only flows fully and gently through those who are completely in and aware of the now.
To help bring our consciousness into the now, and thusly increase the chances of "Getting into the Flow" or having the muse flow through us, I will list a few things to do and be aware of below.
Most of the time we are unconscious of our breathing; it is just something that we do naturally without thinking or being aware of. However, when we take our consciousness and place it on our breathing, a few things may happen.
A. You may notice your breathing pattern. Perhaps you take very shallow and rapid breaths normally. Try instead to focus and take larger more filling breaths.
B. When we are focused purely on our breathing, it is hard for our minds to wonder and think about the past or future. It "forces" our awareness into what is happening right now... your breathing.
Author Eckhart Tolle asks for us to feel our "inner body" in his book "A New Earth." While that book doesn't have anything specifically to do with being an artist or creating, it has everything to do with being a human being and bringing our consciousness into the present moment.
So what Mr. Tolle is referring to when he says, "feel your inner body," is to place all of your awareness on feeling the life that runs through your body (your hand to begin with). If you think about it, of course it may be a weird concept, but I ask you to refrain from letting your mind think in this instance. Just feel and be aware of the tingling sensation of your hand when all of your attention is placed on it.
On a side note, pianist and composer Carlos Campos always asks for his students to do a similar practice, because a higher level of focus, and thusly a higher quality result, can be attained by shifting all of your awareness to the present moment and as he would say, having "body awareness."
3. Be Open
Last, but certainly not least, be completely open to anything and everything that flows through you. Once you're "In the Flow," don't stop by critiquing or questioning what you've just written down or played (whether it be lyrics or music). There is a time and a place for you to come back, refine, polish, and critique your piece, but now is not the time.
I always recommend having some way of recording yourself (handheld recorder, Pro Tools, etc.) while you're "In the Flow," because just taking the time to write notation down or the lyrics you were currently singing may be enough to hinder or completely stop the "flow." So by clicking a single button, you can record everything you play/sing and then write it down at a later time.
Now I realize that there are some of you who are completely turned off by these ideas, whether it be because they seem too simple to work, or because it almost sounds like something a pseudo-Hollywood hippie would say. However, I ask that before you pass judgment on these ideas, take them seriously and put them into practice when you are going through your creative process. If for some reason this "method" doesn't work for you then the only things you have lost are the stresses and worries of your day, because your consciousness was focused on the only thing we truly have. Now.
Kole is currently studying music composition and classical guitar at Indiana University; and will be transferring to GIT, in the fall of 2007. He also is completing his debut album "Exile" through Empire Records and teaches many students for guitar and songwriting.
He has also just finished co-authoring a great new instructional e-book for guitar titled "The Next Step: Serious Improvement for the Developing Guitarist," which can be found and purchased at thenextstepguitar.com.
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