Making music might be the thing you live and breathe to do, but it doesn’t mean you’ll feel motivated to write and record songs all the time. In fact, you might encounter months-long stretches of time where you’d rather do pretty much anything else more than writing songs if you’re a serious or professional songwriter with years of experience under your belt. This is normal, but you’ll need tools and strategies to get back to work eventually. Motivation is crucial for music-makers, but it’s not always easy to access. If you feel bored, aimless, or unsure how to make your next musical step, here are some motivation tips to help get you moving:
Listen to music that challenges you every week
It can be dangerously easy to forget to listen to and enjoy music in your daily life even if you’re a songwriter with a deep love for other artists and their work. We get so wrapped up in our own careers and personal lives that it’s easy for deep and rewarding music listening experiences to become less and less frequent. If we want to live lives where inspired music creation happens often, we have to remember the things that first drew us to music back when we started writing songs. When you don’t make time to listen to your favorite songs or discover new music, you run the risk of losing that initial spark that attracted you to songwriting. Incorporate music listening into your weekly routine, and you’ll probably feel more motivated to write music.
Keep a list of short-term goals
This tip is mainly geared toward new and developing artists. If you’re constantly unmotivated to write music, it might be because you don’t know what to do each week. Goals are so important for music creation because writing, recording, producing, and promoting songs is a complex process that takes an insane amount of work. The big picture is daunting, but breaking things down into small weekly tasks each week is far more manageable. If you want to write an album, start by setting the goal of writing and recording 12 new demos over the next three months. Each week, you’ll be responsible for creating one new demo, and at the end of three months you’ll have more than enough music for a new record. This is just one example, but it shows how to transform uncertainty into action. If you’re unmotivated in music, it’s time to make a plan.
Set aside time during your week to do exactly what you want in music
And now a tip that’s especially for career songwriters and serious musicians. Since music is a major part of your life, income, and identity, you probably spend a good portion of your week doing things that are tedious and unfilling but crucial for your work––booking DIY tours, recording 87 takes of that vocal part to get it just right, creating a promotion strategy for your next single, etc. A big part of maintaining your creative motivation as a songwriter is to carve out time to have fun with songwriting and music creation every week. Do exactly what you want to do, whether it’s playing something super loud on the drums or constructing new synth patches and experimenting. The specifics are up to you but don’t forget how important it is to maintain your connection with and love for music. If you’re missing your musical motivation, it could be because you’re not doing anything that meaningfully engages you.
Create a songwriting schedule and stick to it––no matter what
Here’s a tip for every music-maker: create a weekly songwriting schedule and commit to it. A lack of motivation in music is common for all of us at some point. But here’s the thing––this won’t matter if music creation is built into your daily life. If you write Monday through Friday from 10AM-2PM no matter what, you’ll ensure that music creation happens consistently in your life whether you feel like writing or not. Motivation isn’t as obvious and defined as you might think. The thought of writing music might sound like the most boring thing in the world one moment, but you could write the best song of your life the next if you commit to creating consistently every week. Sometimes inspiration doesn’t hit us until we’re sitting in front of the DAW, piano, microphone, or drum set. Showing up is half the battle, and this is a foolproof strategy for doing just that. Motivation is something you have to earn. You don’t get it for free most of the time.
Staying motivated in music isn’t easy, but it can absolutely be done. If you do the work of creating a musically active and engaged life, writing in an authentic and rewarding way gets much, much easier.
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.