You have found your way to my new blog and I love, that you are here. I’ve decided that I want to share my thoughts about the creative process, the ups and downs, tips and tricks and whatnot. We’ll see where this blog will take us. I don’t know yet, so we are about to embark on this journey together.
Last year in October 2019, I (as you probably know) send out my second EP ‘Next Summer’. I’ve been in release mode for a long time, and I’ve just started the process of writing new songs. So it’s a perfect time to start blogging about the full cycle of writing new material that some day will turn into a finished album.
Here goes… My first week back at being creative went like this.
A slow start.
With my favorite blue pen, my pink notebook and the best of intentions, I sat myself down by the piano ready to write the first song for a new album. I played one of my favorite chords – the A-minor, and waited for the song to come.
Nothing… No sudden inspiration from the universe.
Give me a break. A little out of practice here. That’s to be expected.
I played a few more chord. Everything either sounded boring or like something I had written a thousand times before, or WORSE – like something someone else had written a thousand times before!
Ok! Maybe I just had to look for some inspiration.
I shuffled around on Spotify and spent a few minutes listening to music from artists I love. That usually helps.
Then I tried again with my A-minor chord. This time around in a up tempo feeling. I started singing a melody on top of the chords, but the song still didn’t take off.
Something is off!
A feeling of strong discomfort grew in my body and my palms were getting slightly sweaty.
Why doesn’t it come?
Maybe it wasn’t the right time to write a song, so I got up and started practicing my cello instead.
A lovely redeeming and non-committal thing while thinking: “Don’t force it, Ulla.”
An hour later I decided to give songwriting another go.
“Hey! how hard can it be? It’s what I do.”
New strategy. This time around I set a timer to one hour and decided no matter what, death or torment, I would keep on going (even if I had to force the song out this time)
Oh No! A-minor is broken.
Apparently something was wrong with the A-minor chord, so instead I started improvising freely hoping that it would bring out a song.
Stay with it! Stay with it! …
The uncomfortable feeling was quietly creeping up on me again. But I am strong-willed person and I stuck with it. A song had to come no matter what!
My jaw tightened, I sat uneasily on the piano bench and now I had to pee as well, but I was persistent.
But still NO creative impulse to spark a full song. I felt like I had been improvising for ages, so I checked the timer, to see if maybe it was time to look for inspiration again on Spotify.
Only 5 minutes had past. FIVE MINUTES!!!! Shiiiiiit…
it’s damn hard to write songs, if you can’t be in that first uncertain space for more than 5 minutes without wanting to procrastinate.
What is that about? Why is this no fun? Why doesn’t it flow?
And where does this horrible feeling come from?
And then it hit me….
What if I don’t have any more good songs in me?
You are probably laughing at me, thinking that I’m being overly dramatic here. But this is what happened. Same thing every day over a couple of days.
You should think that, since I’ve been writing music and releasing songs for more than 10 years, I would have some experience with the creative process. And I do, I have lots of tools in my creativity toolbox. But all I could feel was that uncomfortable feeling.
Of course it didn’t work, trying to force out the songs. After a couple of days in deep frustration I had to let go and ask myself:
Why do I, who have been working as a creative person all of my adult life, still get hit by this startup block?
And it’s not even difficult to answer for me.
- I compare my early ideas to my finished songs
- I forget that being creative is a state-of-mind. Focus shouldn’t be in the future but on being present and playful in the moment.
I am by nature impatient and want to get to the finished product as quickly as possible. But that’s not how the creative process works.
So here’s what I’ve been doing instead:
Clean out the old.
I’ve been meditating. I don’t know why, but I somehow intuitively knew, I needed to do something to reconnect with myself and find a slower way of thinking. It’s not something I’ve practiced a lot before, mostly inner visualization, which is a great tool for focus and clarity.
I found some guided meditations online, and they worked wonders. I realized, I’ve been in this same place many times before and I remembered that starting something new, always leads to a lot of soul searching. How could I have forgotten?
You need to clean out the old in order to make room for the new. Like a spring cleaning for the soul. It makes perfect sense…
First I needed to look inside and heal what bruises I got after releasing my previous EP ‘Next Summer’. When sending songs and thoughts, (part of yourself), out into the world – you open up to other people’s opinions, good and sometimes bad. They don’t always find you as brilliant as you do yourself (unfortunately).
Trust your own voice!
Second I needed to find a way back to that innocent and playful place, where I make music just for me and because there’s no way for me not to. That means trusting my own voice and letting go of any self-doubt that might have accumulated.
To find that place, I have to accept that maybe you as a listener won’t like my new songs and be ok with it. So I made dymo label for my note stand on my piano, that says: Trust your own voice. I see that every day and it serves as a reminder.
Open up to impressions.
It’s time to start a new chapter and to open up to the world in a different way. Be vulnerable and sensitive to my surroundings and feelings. Let my ideas grow, learn something new, feed my creativity with books, love, light, paintings, music, late night talks, wine, nature and meditation. Appreciation for every wrong turn for showing me where not to go and applauding myself for being courageous enough to even dare stepping out into unknown territory.
If you are thinking of starting up a new creative project, then don’t forget to trust and listen to your own voice. Close your ears to the noise outside and treat yourself with a lot of kindness. Otherwise you might not get started at all, and that would surely be a big loss.