Routine & Creativity in Lockdown
In 2020 I did Weeklybeats for the third time. Weeklybeats is a free community site where everyone attempts to write and record a new song every week for the whole year. In past years I would start out strong but run out of steam as, you know, life happened.
Luckily (???) 2020 turned out to be a year where not much life happened and I barely left the house. This allowed me to produce 52 mostly bad songs in 52 weeks, a feat I will almost certainly never match.
There are surely great musicians out there who could rattle off a new song every week and keep the quality control very high; I am not one of them. I’m not even really a musician! So I approach this as a brute force method of generating raw material: most of these songs will suck but if you make 52 tracks a few of them have to be salvageable. If you bank those tracks, you can revisit them in the next calendar year with fresh ears. Turn those into real songs and hey, you’ve got an album!
Sometimes I’m deliberate about trying out a new technique or focusing on a specific piece of gear. Sometimes I wait until the last minute and just throw some stuff together without thinking. Sometimes I just goof around and jam for an hour and then try to edit things down into something that resembles a song. The goal is to get in a groove and mix it up enough so that the weekly process doesn’t become a grind.
I used to spend months working on songs and often they just never ended up going anywhere. It’s almost a cliché at this point, but it’s true: giving myself a ticking clock helped me start to actually get stuff done. And more importantly it allows me to timebox the creative experiments that fall flat on their face.
Every time I’ve done this it’s turned out to be a rewarding process; this year it had the added benefit of keeping me (arguably) sane.
Weeklybeats only runs on even numbered years, but if you’re interested in an exercise like this I would check out Streak Club. Streak Club takes the weekly deadline concept and expands on it. Anyone can create a “streak” that other members can join, and people have created groups for music, art, game development, and more. There’s already a 2021 music group set up by some Weeklybeats folks.
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