Whether it’s a talkative roommate or the constant desire to be on your phone, distractions can be one of the most significant barriers standing between you and your full potential as a songwriter. If you’re serious about making the best music you can and sharing it with the world, you’re going to need to identify what distracts you the most when you write. Then comes the hard work of consciously removing distractions from your writing practice. While this gets easier the more we work at it, it’s a job we’re never finished doing. Distractions will always make writing music harder than it has to be unless we do the constant work of addressing and removing them.
Define your goals
Distractions will put you further away from your goals whether you’re set on making a living exclusively through music or just finishing your next song. It’s important to name your short and long-term goals when you create music. Doing this will help you understand what you need to do to reach the sort of creative and career successes you’re looking for, and, spoiler alert, you’ll find that getting distracted pulls you away from each of your goals no matter how big or small they are.
A boundary can be as simple as making a commitment to write music for a certain number of hours each week or creating a monthly songwriting schedule. Or, it can be as ambitious as committing to disconnecting from the internet each time you sit down to write new music. Boundaries are crucial for anticipating distractions before you write so they don’t thwart your process. The sooner you set clear boundaries for your music creation process, the sooner you’ll be able to reap the benefits of focusing on songwriting in a clear and focused way.
Recognize what tends to distract you the most when you write music
To rid your writing practice of distractions, you’ll need to first know exactly what they are. It could be a needy pet that vies for your attention, or the irresistible urge to check on emails or social media notifications. It might be a well-meaning partner that wants to hang out with you while you write, or your mind wandering off into countless directions. Name what distracts you and work towards creating time and space for your process that allows you to focus on making music as deeply as you can. Doing this allows you to anticipate distractions so you can work towards removing them.
No advice you’ll find here will help you if you don’t have discipline. Discipline is the backbone behind the choice to focus only on writing music in our songwriting practices. It’s the fuel that enables us to identify distractions and set them aside over and over again. Embracing discipline takes constant work, but it’s so worth it. It’s the act of choosing one thing over everything else, and when you’re writing music, that should be your one and only focus. Emails, pets, partners, TV, and everything else can wait for another time.
Take note of the positive results
After you’ve taken distractions out of your songwriting practice, note just how much happier and productive you are. This step is important because it will show you that your hard work and discipline are paying off and that your music is better off for it. You’ll learn that a distraction-free songwriting practice is essential for the deep focus it takes to create and shape your best ideas. It’s also important to do this when your willpower feels strained and the temptation to give into distraction feels especially hard to resist. You, your music, and your career will all be better off when you learn to embrace a distraction-free songwriting practice and appreciate its benefits.
As songwriters, we often think that all we need to succeed is great music, but that’s just one part of the equation. Getting to the point where making great music is possible takes a lot of work, and resisting and removing distractions is a part of that work. The good news is that learning to take distractions out of your music creation process will have benefits that extend far out of your career in music.
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.