Music might be one of the most important things in your life, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to pursue it in earnest easily. From fighting through seasons where inspiration seems impossible with having to balance non-musical priorities during your week, working on music consistently can feel impossible to do sometimes. But the truth is that your ability to make music creation, performance, and promotion a regular part of your life could be the single factor that determines whether you reach your goals or not. If you want to earn a living through music or simply create work that deeply resonates with a wide audience, you won’t get there without hard, consistent work. No matter what kind of music you make or what your goals are, you’ll thrive and grow much more as a musician if you can prioritize music in your weekly schedule. Here are three tips for helping you do just that:
Create an action plan to tackle short-term goals
If you’re a songwriter, free and unstructured time to work on music should absolutely be a part of your weekly schedule. But to make those times more productive, start first by creating a list of short-term goals to accomplish each week. If you’re in the middle of recording an album, it could be finishing specific songs or working on a promotion plan. If you are unclear on how to spend your time, thinking about what you want out of music and how to get there is a great way to make progress. Serious musicians will get the most out of splitting their time between creating and rehearsing but also some of the less sexy things that need to be done like answering emails, pitching music, and planning. By prioritizing what’s important and carving out enough time to address each item on your list, you’ll ensure that you’ll have time to create and handle everything that needs to happen in your music career each week.
Be realistic when carving out time for music
We’d all love to spend eight hours a day working on music, and some of us are lucky enough to do it. But for the rest of us––those with non-music careers, families, and other obligations––working on music each week is a balancing act. You might not be able to accommodate a 40-hour musical week, but you could potentially swing a 15-hour one, and you can get a lot done in that timeframe if you focus. Being realistic about the amount of time you can commit to music each week means approaching things in a sustainable way. As you develop your music, it could become a bigger and bigger part of your life that eventually helps to financially support you. But the truth is that it could be years before that happens. If you think of the long game rather than what things look like now, you’ll see that consistently writing great music over a period of years is what earns artists dedicated fans. You can absolutely make that happen, but your chances of getting there will be much better if you can be realistic about your music commitment with something like two to three hours a day of work with more on the weekends.
Choose and stick to consistent times when you do nothing but focus on music
If you’re being realistic about the times you can commit to music during your week and can shape how you spend your time by tackling short-term goals, you need to make absolutely sure to focus on music without distractions. This means that when you set aside time to write music during the week, all you do is write music––close your laptop, turn off your smartphone, kick your roommate/kids out of the room, and do nothing but focus on creating. Doing this is actually a lot harder than it sounds, but it will pay off. Think about whether you’ll be able to focus only on music during the week when you schedule time to write.
When we hear amazing music, it’s natural to think there are massive and unseen forces out of an artist’s control at work, and to a degree this is true. We can’t control when or how great ideas in music come to us, but we can show up to the writing process as often as possible. Doing this increases our chances of wrestling something great considerably.
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.