Art, essay, Music

Magic Can Come From Routine

Creativity is mysterious, but there is one constant in a creative life: You have to make space for it.

Making space requires carving out time. The amount of time is up to you. It could be 10 min. a day, or an hour a week, for example.

If you establish a routine and stick to it, you will have made a commitment, and the consistency inherent in a commitment is what sets you up for achievement. This is a simple principle, but you have to have the discipline to see it through. Otherwise, the goals you set will remain just aspirations.

There are many ways to be creative. You can be physically creative with fitness. You can be creative in the visual arts (drawing, painting, etc.). You can be musically creative. You can be creative with how you design your home. You can be creative with cooking. You can be creative in the way you solve problems at work. These are just a few examples.

Lately, I’ve been dedicating time to playing music. I practice guitar and keyboard every week. My initial goal was to practice every weekday in the afternoon, but I realized that was too strict of a commitment. I’ve since changed my routine to at least one day a week of practice. Even if I only get in a short session during the week, that works for me.

The shape of each session varies, depending on my desires for the day, but I do have specific objectives for each session. For example, in a short session, I sometimes choose to put on three songs to jam along with so I can practice playing solos. For a longer session, I sometimes put on a whole album to jam to. These practice sessions are teaching me how to play “in the pocket” of any given song. I’m training my ear to identify what notes fit. I’m also learning the relationships between notes as I play. This experimental playing deepens my understanding of guitar. As I improve, my next goal is to work on phrasing: playing licks, riffs and solos with soul (“soul” is an elusive word, but you’ll know when a piece of music has it because you’ll hear it intuitively).

In other sessions, I’ll sit down to play only original stuff. This means I start playing notes or chords at whim, and if I come up with a sequence I like, I record it as a track.

As for keyboard, I’ve started learning how to play in the last year, so I’m focusing on chord repetition. These drills are important to establish flow when playing. I also spend time working out melodies to pop songs by ear, and I’m learning to figure out what chords go with the notes to a given song.

All of this feeds my love of learning, which, in the grand scheme of things, is a love of exploration.

It may seem odd that something magical can come from mundane scheduling, but establishing a routine can help you be creative. By setting the limits of time, and dedicating your energy with focus during that time, you can push your creative boundaries.