Sunday, February 23, 2014

Productivity V.S. Creativity (An Excuse)

I'm always dreaming up new creative projects to try. (I'm sure you guys are too, based on the emails and feedback I get.) While experimenting with the latest new idea of mine, I find myself reading through dozens of blogs and books trying to discover "the secret" to success or the "best tips and tools for productivity". How did these professional writers, musicians, artists make it all the way to the top? 

As I've been digging and digging I came across similar recommendations such as:
  • Send out good vibes to the universe.
  • Use such and such software. (There is even a productivity writing software called "Write Or Die". Look it up. It's terrifying!)
  • Use such and such app.
  • Figure out how your body and energy correlates with the moon cycles/seasons/menstrual cycles 
  • Eat certain foods
  • Wake up early
  • Meditate
  • Have accountability partners
  • Read these books
  • Listen to these audio cds
  • Go on daily, spiritual nature walks
  • Escape for a weekend to recharge.
  • Use egg timers

I stopped one day, after reading through a rather dense blog filled to the brim with productivity tips, to remember the things I did to facilitate moderate success as a musician. What was my secret sauce? I've climbed the creative Mount Everest before. I started from day one with nothing. What tips and tricks did I use?

Did I use an egg timer to time my creative spurts?
Did I use spreadsheets, apps, and detailed calendars?


I sat down every day to work out songs because I wanted to. I wrote down my melodies and lyrics not caring or worrying about critics or pleasing audiences or being concerned if anyone would listen to them. I wrote song after song, played guitar non-stop. When I had enough material I found other musicians who would play with me, an audience that wanted to listen. I showed them what I had. I did these things over and over again, day after day, for years. I just knew in my innocent, little heart of hearts, that someday, some people, somewhere, would absolutely go batty for what I created. I simply had to find them.

I focused on the art itself, and didn't get caught up in the details of how to create it.

Please understand that I'm not saying all of the productivity advice floating around the internet flat out sucks. What I am saying is this:

I now realize that every time I was looking for "productivity" and "creativity" tips, I was actually biding time and pretending to work on the planning of creating my art, so I wouldn't have to actually create it. I thought it was more important to look up the best methods to be productive instead of grabbing my guitar and coming up with good lyrics. I focused on building a detailed to-do list, even planning when I would stop to meditate before writing a chapter to invite my muse, instead of going forth and writing something down. Hell, my muse is either going to be there or she isn't! 

I was evading the actual sitting down to make my art because I was (and still am):
  • Afraid that it won't be good enough
  • Afraid that my new art won't measure up to what I've created in the past
  • Afraid that I'll never finish
  • Afraid that I'll never start
  • Afraid that I will be misunderstood.
  • Afraid that people will think I'm an idiot 
You'd think that after a decade of being a musician and performing in arenas that fears like this wouldn't deter me, but they still do. I'm right there with you. Doubts are dumb. Life shouldn't be so serious. People are counting on you and me to be entertained, to feel an emotion, to make the mundane, boring, painful parts of their lives easier to bear, like you and I are counting on all the artists that we look up to. We've got an assignment to do.

Gonna go do it now,


P.S. In the first part of this blog, the question to my search was, "How did these professional writers, musicians, artists make it all the way to the top?" That's the wrong question to ask. The right question is, "how can I find a way to face my fears so I can focus on what's important and finish the art that I start?" Well, how can you? ...


  1. the best advice comes from within ..secret sauce recipe?

  2. Forget about the fears. They are what hold you back.
    Try writing something a little bit darker. I know in the past you and Dia have written songs about some pretty dark stuff like “Yellow Butterfly” and “Halloween” and honestly, those are some of my favorite Meg and Dia songs.
    What might help the creativity wheel going for you is to try something new. Try writing some fun rock songs with a wicked guitar solo in the middle of it played by you. Or try fusing different genres of music. Country-pop music has been doing really well for example. Just ask Taylor Swift!

    It’d be interesting to hear you playing some jazz music with a nice big band feel to it. Something different might reignite the creativity again.

    Try and get inspired by reading books. (I know I don’t have to tell YOU that!) Getting inspired by other works is a great way to start a new song.

    Oh! On the topic of books: what about an album that tells a story. A CD you have to listen from Track 1 to the last track in order to hear the whole story. How interesting would that be to be able to tell a story through music?

    I don’t know where I am going with this, but I felt like this might give you some ideas to start writing again. I’m not much of a writer myself, but I know that when you pick up the pen and put it down at the end of a song that that song is worth listening to.


  3. I use Write or Die! It is terrifying but helps when you have deadlines. However, you need to write for writing's sake, because you love it, not because you're forcing yourself. Thanks for voicing what a lot of us feel Meg.

  4. Love this post! Thank you. :)