Creative flow is a fickle mistress. It seems magical when you’re able to create without any resistance. Your art just starts to fill your mind, you know exactly what to do and how to do it. This creative flow has been sought for over the ages. The Greeks believed that three Muses controlled creative flow, and would cut it off whenever they deemed fit. Still, many modern thinkers believe that creativity is channelled through humans, not created by humans. I’ll attempt to explain some of the research on creative flow and how it can help you get the most out of your production time.
What’s a Studio?
For the purposes of this article, I must define what a studio is. It is very important that you have a studio, but it might not be the definition you think of. I define a studio as a dedicated place you set aside to do creative work. A studio does not have to be a room full of expensive equipment. A studio can be your bedroom, or your garage, or even a quiet place outside where you can plug in your headphones. A studio can have precision monitors and sound treatment, or just have a desk with a pair of computer speakers. A studio is more of a state of mind than a room of equipment. Your studio should be an environment that you associate with being creative, happy, and productive. Your studio is a sanctuary, an almost sacred space for you: sacred because it’s where you make your art.
Introducing Creative Flow
The ultimate end we are trying to achieve is creative flow. Ever had a studio session where things just made themselves on their own? Tracks just unfolded before you, you knew exactly what to do in each and every scenario; everything just fit?
If this has happened to you, then you have probably experienced creative flow. Creative flow is a neurological state where creativity, innovation, and artistic expression are allowed to run free and efficiently. Your brain turns into a creative powerhouse and devotes a large amount of resources to generating new ideas at high speeds and volume. While awesome it as is when you are in it, creative flow is very fickle–it can be taken away at any moment.
All of these tips are ways to encourage creative flow to get more things done. By increasing how your brain works creatively, you extend your abilities and can get the most done with the least amount of time and stress. Sounds awesome, right?
Maximizing Creative Flow
- Eliminate all distractions. This can be inordinately hard at times, but you need to cut off yourself from the external world. Small interruptions, even for a few minutes, can remove your creative flow state & make it so you have to earn it back. 3 minutes ends up costing 30 because it takes you half an hour to get back to where you once were. The question now doesn’t become if you can afford the time, but if you can afford the distraction. The obvious distractions are phones and social media. When you enter the studio, put your phone on airplane mode. This will ensure that you don’t get any distracting texts or notifications. If you take a break in your session, turn your phone back to normal mode, and check your notifications. The world will wait in most cases. A$AP Rocky traded his smartphone for an old-fashioned pager while recording his latest album, A.L.L.A. Rocky said that he did this to remove all distractions and influences from the outside world so he could solely focus on his creativity.For locking down your computer, there’s a few methods that I would recommend. It depends on how far you are willing to go.The first, and least invasive way, is to simply close out of your internet browser. As long as you have the willpower not to open it, then you’ll stay off of Facebook when you should be making music.If that’s not enough, try the following solutions.
- Unplugging your internet modem – remove your internet from the source. Simply plug it back in when you’re finished with your session.
- Installing Freedom App – https://freedom.to/ – Freedom allows you to work without the distraction of external apps. Freedom offers scheduling to turn off different notifications & functions, as well as other features to give yourself a distraction free environment.
- Scheduling enough time to be creative. Creative flow is a state that requires 20-45 minutes to get going. Thus, you must give yourself some time before you can start performing at your best. Your brain has to be warmed up just like your body does. When you schedule your studio time, make sure that you can allot at least 2 hours without any interruptions. By having large chunks of interruption-free time, you allow yourself the creative time to get shit done. You give yourself the proper channel to bring out your musical flow state.
- Clean your studio. “As above, so below.” If your studio is cramped and messy, your thoughts will be cramped and messy. Likewise, if your mind is cluttered and disorganized, your studio will be cluttered and disorganized. Your thoughts and your personal environment are directly linked.It’s easy to fill overwhelmed in a studio that’s messy. Food on the desk, empty energy drink cans on the floor. I’ve been there, I know how damn messy it can get. Cleaning & decluttering my studio did enormous things for my creativity because it gave me the space to breathe. Decluttering your studio also reduces your number of distractions as there are not as many shiny things to catch your eye.
- Don’t worry about mixing as you go. Note: This is a general policy, and to what degree “too much” mixing as you go depends on each producer. When you enter a creative flow state, your mind literally switches places. Your frontal lobes, or judgement area of the brain, shuts off so you can produce as many new ideas as possible. This makes sense because labelling an idea as impossible is the first move to shoot down someone’s creativity. By going from production to mixing, you are literally going from creation to criticism–two opposite sides of the brain. If creative flow takes you 20 minutes to get into, then every time you concentrate on mixing you waste 20 minutes of your production time. It’s no wonder that writer’s block can come halfway during a track because the creative faucet has been shut off by the clamps of self-judgement.
- “Amateurs wait for inspiration. The real pros get up and go to work.” This quote from Chuck Close is exactly the idea you need to adopt. Producer’s block is a myth. If it takes you 20 minutes of production to get into your flow state, then you must spend 15 minutes flailing in the dark until you stumble upon genius. You cannot simply expect creativity to come to you. You must dig for it. When you encounter a block, work through it.Keep pounding your head against the desk and something will eventually come out. Admitting producer’s block is giving up on the journey before you even know where you’re headed.