Reality for most aspiring artists is working several part-time gigs to make up for the low earnings of recorded music and touring. Piecing it all together month to month and barely scraping by.
In the chaos of multiple jobs it can be difficult to find large chunks of time to work on music. When will I have a spare hour to work on writing? Do I really have a weekend anymore? I must run to rehearsals in the evenings, skip meals, get into the studio at a reasonable hour to not upset my producer who also wants to have some simulacrum of work-life balance.
Creatives and makers need time to make. It’s imperative that we give ourselves the time to create. We need large blocks of uninterrupted time. Creative work is exceedingly difficult to fit into a spare hour here or there.
Paul Graham, writer of the now very popular essay, “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule”, explains:
“When you're operating on the maker's schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. That's no problem for someone on the manager's schedule. There's always something coming on the next hour; the only question is what. But when someone on the maker's schedule has a meeting, they have to think about it.
For someone on the maker's schedule, having a meeting is like throwing an exception. It doesn't merely cause you to switch from one task to another; it changes the mode in which you work.
I find one meeting can sometimes affect a whole day. A meeting commonly blows at least half a day, by breaking up a morning or afternoon. But in addition there's sometimes a cascading effect. If I know the afternoon is going to be broken up, I'm slightly less likely to start something ambitious in the morning. I know this may sound oversensitive, but if you're a maker, think of your own case. Don't your spirits rise at the thought of having an entire day free to work, with no appointments at all? Well, that means your spirits are correspondingly depressed when you don't. And ambitious projects are by definition close to the limits of your capacity. A small decrease in morale is enough to kill them off.”
Artists are makers.
I personally think of work time in units of days or half days. Paul Graham writes similarly using coders and writers as examples. I do not like booking recording sessions for one hour. Usually anyone who suggests we only need an hour in the studio is inexperienced and unaware of just how much time goes into recording.
As an artist I believe one of the best things you can do is structure your work week in a way that allows you to have at least one block of 4 or more hours to work on your music. All the better if you can create two days a week where you have this available.
If you are running around from one gig to the next, harried, and too “busy” to even consider sitting down for more than an hour to write a song, then it’s time to call a timeout.
Perhaps the part-time gig was only ever meant to be a means to end, but somehow now it’s the main dictator of how your time is spent. Perhaps you know in your heart of hearts that being a touring / recording artist is what you want to be and you’ve slipped under an enchantment of compliance with your part-time gig. Well, snap out of it. Wake up and look around. Are you working your “real job” for you and your dreams or are you a cog in a system helping the world more efficiently get lattes and smoothies?
I want to hear the kind of music you’ll make when you really give yourself time to work and be creative. It pumps me up just considering the beautiful art that might enter this world through you if you only just give your time to it.
Founder of @lostharbormusic