ARTICLE - How To Find Inspiration and Stay Creative. 5 Practical Tips for Composers.
Updated: Apr 3
A creative or inspirational slump is something that we all go through from time to time. It's an inevitable part of being an artist.
This can sometimes be difficult to deal with, especially if creating music is a large source of what brings you joy in life. The feeling of sitting down to compose but not getting anywhere is agonising and stifles your confidence.
We want to listen back to our work at the end of the day and feel happy, but this is impossible to reach if we never get going in the first place.
How do we find that creative spark even when we have no motivation, and what are some things that we can do to help ourselves stay engaged and inspired by our work?
That is the topic we explore in todays article.
1. Cut Yourself Some Slack
To kick things off, we should talk about not being so hard on ourselves, and remember that its ok for us to go through time of higher/lower creative output as we move through our careers. Its impossible to be inspired all of the time, and many of the greatest composers and film composers have been through blank periods themselves.
Lets think about what we mean when we say we are inspired. When we are inspired its almost like a flame has been lit within us. Ideas flow effortlessly and we are propelled forward by some internal creative force.
We can work towards redefining the idea of inspiration in our own minds. Rather than think of inspiration as this mystical force that we have no control over, lets redefine it into something that works in our favour. Being inspired doesn't only mean being inspired to write music. Being inspired can mean looking at things in a new way, imagining different perspectives, challenging your own beliefs or having a mind that is open to new sounds.
Inspiration doesn't only have to come in the "doing" of music, but also in the "study", and the "thinking" about music as well. There are many ways we can continue to hone our craft even when we don't feel like composing.
Practical Tip - Perhaps you haven't been interested in composing recently, or there have been other things occupying your time. Even if you aren't working on your music you can still be actively "thinking" about your music and exploring ideas in your mind.
2. Physical / Mental health & Sleep
Any physical or mental affliction is going to be a hinderance to your creative output, so looking after your overall health and wellbeing is probably the single biggest thing you can do to help yourself stay creative.
When we have a deadline fast approaching everything gets pushed to the side except the project, and usually this is done at the detriment of our own wellbeing. Its extra important for us to look after ourselves during these stressful periods as if we are not careful we can drive ourselves into burnout which can leave us feeling knocked out for weeks.
Schedule in time for exercise and also for recreation so that you can safeguard your physical and mental health. Balance time spent sitting down in the studio with time spent exercising to stave off some of the consequences that come from being sedentary. Allow yourselves periods of relaxation throughout your day to relieve stress and to help you unwind in the evening before you go to bed.
Staying on top of your physical, mental health and sleep has wondrous effects on your creativity and motivation.
Here are a few simple things you can do to stay physically active and enjoy the benefits.
5 min walk around the block
Football/ Basketball at the local park
Walk the dog
Gym, Swim or home exercise
Martial arts class Weekend hike with friends
We can also enjoy similar benefits from mindfulness practices such as those listed below:
Meditation Drink tea
Drawing / Painting
Deliberate Relaxation Keep a journal
Practical Tip - Schedule an hour each day where you are away from music and doing something physically active.
3. Spend Time Outdoors
This links in pretty well with our previous point, but getting out of the studio and spending time outdoors is essential to maintaining your creative edge. Too much screen time can be a serious brain-drain.
We aren't designed to spend all of our time inside. Being out in the elements connects us with our physical realities, sharpening our eyes and ears. The act of walking, moving through different terrains and taking in the world around you helps us find clarity. It opens up our minds leaving space for ideas to run freely.
Longer of walks 40 min - 1 hour give you the most benefits, but even a quick stroll around your local neighbourhood have some very positive effects on your mood and creativity. Next time you are feeling stuck or lacking inspiration, try going out for a walk as your remedy.
Beethoven was famous for his daily long walks that he would take after his midday meal, and there is also Tchaikovksy, who believed "he had to take a walk of exactly two hours a day and that if he returned even a few minutes early, great misfortunes would befall him".
Practical Tip - Take a long walk once a week and let your mind wander down which ever path it wants to.
4. Books, Movies, Games, Museums...
A lack of inspiration often comes from a lack of novelty. Spark your mind with new stories and ideas to keep things fresh. Expose yourself to new ideas and experiences. Take time for things that are away from music so that you can return to your composition with a new found energy.
You can use books, films and games to spark your emotions and use this to help find inspiration for composition. You can also engage your thinking mind with puzzles, museums, watching a documentary or practicing a new skill.
Practical Tip - Next time you are feeling uninspired, take a trip to your local library and rent out a book on a topic you find interesting. Try and select something that gives you a feeling of excitement or mystery. Read the book and compose a piece of music that evokes some of the ideas, themes and emotions from within the book.
Books are an especially rich source of creative inspiration, as they force us to use our imagination to visualise the story contained within the pages.
5. Escape Your Comfort Zone
We have a comfort zone in music as we do in life, and Its good to step outside of it from time to time. Try new sounds, experiment with strange textures. Leave any pre-conceived ideas or notions of what your music is supposed to be by the wayside and just write. By getting outside of our comfort zone it helps us to progress artistically and develop in new directions. We can expose ourselves to unfamiliar ideas, sparking a flame of curiosity that leads us down a new musical rabbit hole, potentially to inspiration for our latest piece of composition.
Practical Tip - Once a month, try composing in a musical style that intimidates you or one where you don't feel comfortable. You may just surprise yourself with what you can come up with.
That wraps things up for this article. We hope you enjoyed reading! Subscribe for similar article like this as well as updates on remote orchestra scoring sessions.
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