Getting Prolific, Day 43: Limited Production Windows
What if the biggest obstacle standing in the way of success is your own mindset?
The sound engineer at my music studio laughs at me each time we do another album together.
He jokes that if every artist could walk in and lay down an entire record in a single afternoon, his job would be much easier.
But we have to remember, every musician is different.
Dylan finished his first album in two days.
Dangelo’s best album evolved from nearly four years of sessions.
These two examples are the extremes. Most artists are going to fall somewhere in between. What’s interesting is, despite the increasing accessibility and plummeting cost of recording equipment over the years, there are some things about the creative process that don’t change. Like time and talent and labor.
Because things being equal, how long projects takes is more under the artist’s control than they might realize. It all depends on what kinds of constraints they’re willing to introduce into their process.
In my own work as a songwriter, here are several constraint questions that have been helpful in streamlining my recording process. Think about how they can apply to your creative projects, musical or otherwise.
What if you only played a single instrument? What if you only used two tracks? What if you only recorded songs you’ve written in the past year? What if you only gave yourself one afternoon to record the entire album? What if you didn’t send tracks out for mastering and simply published the songs in raw form?
Even if you’re not a musician, you can apply this constraint centered mindset. Using a restricted production window is a powerful tool for exploiting your creative energy in novel ways.
After all, the last thing you want is all the time in the world. With that kind of infinite window, it will be very difficult to create something pure, since you’re likely to overthink the work. You’ll question your judgment, ignore your intuition and get trapped inside your head, rather than using the forcing function of constraints to access your authentic voice.
What tools help you get out of your own way? What might accomplish once you realize that the biggest obstacle standing in the way of success is your own mindset?
It’s funny, you read all these research studies and global surveys about how creative people wish they had more time, and what things they would accomplish if they had it.
But in my opinion, what people need in our toxic culture that values excess over meaning, is less time and more constraints. Our problems are the result of having and doing too much, not too little. Pushing to these extremes only leaves us worrying about never getting there.
I’m reminded of a brilliant opinion piece from an old newspaper that recently came up in my research. The writer asks, why have we succumbed to a life that focuses on these exaggerations? Excess requires no decision, it is easier to keep going in a tizzy. Once involved, no decision is necessary because the activity is followed in a robot like way.
Perhaps constraints are the answer to our real pandemic, which is the problem of excess. In an overabundant world where everything has always been possible, maybe giving ourselves a restricted production window would be a gift to our creative health.
What might accomplish once you realize that the biggest obstacle standing in the way of success is your own mindset?
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