1) Practice, Practice, Practice – The best way to stay fresh and inspired is to practice new things. If you are stagnant with your musical vocabulary, it will be difficult to stay inspired and creative. So, make sure to practice regularly and push yourself beyond your comfort zone. “If you always sound good in the practice room, you’re probably not doing it right.” ~Unknown
2) Go Outside – If you’re feeling a little burned out due to gigging and practicing, you might need to get out of the house for a while. Taking a walk, hike or bike ride can give you a fresh perspective which may help replenish your creative energy. Also, while you’re on this outdoor excursion, try not to think about your musical struggles…just enjoy the moment and be present!
3) Listen to music – Now you’re all are probably saying, “Dude, I listen to music all the time”, but are you really critically listening without distractions? I recommend finding a quiet place and listening to some great music for a set period of time, as if it were scheduled study time for school (but hopefully more fun, lol). You really need to focus on the music without looking at your phone, email, computer, etc. You’ll find that this type of “critical listening” is much different than listening in your car or even while walking. So try to include this very important listening time in your daily practice.
4) Isolate Yourself – It’s very important to find a distraction-free environment while practicing, listening, songwriting, etc. So shut off your phone if possible, close out any unrelated browser windows and tell everyone in the house that you need some alone time (unless you already live by yourself). If you’re in a house with many people and responsibilities, you may not have much time to yourself, but at least try to schedule ½ hour a day for this important work. If you can’t even pencil in ½ hour a day, try to work at night with headphones (while others are asleep) so that you can capitalize on the evening’s tranquility. Note: This isolation usually works better for periods longer than 1/2 hour, so try to get a decent block scheduled every day if possible.
5) Set Short-Term Goals – Nothing is more inspiring than the momentum of success, which is why short-term goals are so important. If your only goal is to be an amazing instrumentalist or a famous musician, you’ll probably have problems figuring out what to do first. This can be frustrating and can lead to motivation and inspiration problems. But, if you set achievable short-term goals, you’ll be able to see the finish line, which will supply you with the motivation to succeed. Once you’ve achieved a short-term goal and experienced the positive results, you’ll be inspired to set the next goal ASAP. These goals can be technical, musical, music business related, whatever. So, go make a plan!
6) Read a Biography or Watch a Documentary – Many musicians (including myself) have found much inspiration in the form of music/musician biographies or documentaries. This is due to the fact that we (as viewers and readers) are able to suddenly see these great musicians in a regular light which allows us to relate to them in a much more personal way. Many of our heroes struggled with insecurity, had money problems, were rejected, dealt with health issues, family problems, loss, etc. These are problems that many of us face and it can be inspiring to see how these successful musicians dealt with this adversity and eventually achieved greatness. And in the case that the documentary or biography highlights a musician’s fall from grace or a deterioration, you can also learn what not to do which is also very important.
7) Dream Big – OK, I saved the strangest suggestion for last. If you’re still having problems finding your musical inspiration using methods 1-6, you can always try to tap your subconscious. Yup, I’m talking about dreams. John Lennon, Salvador Dali and Edgar Allan Poe were just a few famous creative types who found inspiration from their dreams. There are many resources available if you’re interested in learning about lucid dreaming, dream journals and more…so let your subconscious mind break down the walls of frustration and unleash your creativity!