For some, the idea of getting more time at home seems like something that would be good for making music. Many songwriters who completely or partially rely on non-musical careers to pay the bills tend to think of their homes as carefree places where writing, recording, and producing can be easily prioritized. I myself have spent the last five years freelancing and making music from home. I can tell you that balancing your home life with your musical one isn’t easy. In order to get the most out of each, you’ll need a plan.
The COVID-19 crisis is forcing most of us to spend more time than ever in our homes. It is a lesson to be found here that will far outlive temporary stay-at-home orders. Writing music might feel like the most natural and rewarding thing in the world to you, but you won’t be able to fully show up to the creative process without prioritizing it in your life. If you’re stuck at home, creating time and space for musical creativity is going to be crucial. It will ultimately determine whether you’ll actually end up making music during this time or not.
Prioritize and plan
Being able to create productively at home won’t come easy to most of us. If you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume that making music feels rewarding to you. However, don’t think that the payoff you experience when you write, record, or produce music will be enough motivation to draw from when working from home. When we work alone from our own homes, music can easily take a backseat to other immediate priorities. This is why we have to prioritize and plan for sustaining productive songwriting practices. It’s easy to think of all the non-musical stuff involved in your home life as distractions. Yet, they’re important priorities that also demand your focus. Relationships, pets, non-musical careers, relaxing, exercising––these are all important parts of life at home that you can’t ignore. Mixing your musical and home lives without much thought means you won’t be able to give enough time and attention to each of them.
Since writing music is important to you, prioritize time each day to focus on it. Doing this requires carving out space in your day to work on music and do nothing else. This means not watching the kids, gaming, perusing social media feeds, or hanging out with your partner or roommate. Instead, you need to be sitting down and fully engaging with the songwriting process. To sustain a thriving songwriting practice from home, you’ll need to make a plan that involves things like communicating with housemates, making sure someone watches your kids, and disabling the internet on your phone and computer while you write. Intention and followthrough are key here, which is why staying musically engaged at home takes the sort of discipline it took you to learn how to play your instrument.
Making a routine out of chaos
Building a stable writing routine from home can be tricky during normal times. We’ll all have the best shot at creatively thriving from home now and when things begin to look like normal again by leaving room for mistakes, shortcomings, and false starts in our songwriting practices. It’s perfectly natural to not want to make music some days under normal conditions. The same goes for our current circumstances. Other times, you may be inspired and ready to go, but life at home will get in the way. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, your willingness to try again and again each day, week, month, and year will be the factor that will help you write music and thrive over the long-term.
The act of making music is simple. It’s usually everything surrounding it and us that makes writing difficult to do. By balancing our musical priorities with everything else in our lives, we can show up to the creative process again and again with a willingness to explore and see what happens.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.