Since I firmly believe that creativity and productivity work best when equally developed, I’ve been giving some serious thought to the ways that I’ve actively structured my life and career to balance the two. It’s not simply a matter of honoring both the creative and productive elements in our lives but the clear proof that each element improves and enhances the other. To that end, I thought I’d start with the way that I’ve balanced my songwriting career with my work as a recording engineer.
Being a songwriter is about unbridled creativity
I started writing songs from a place of sheer inspiration. After more than ten years of classical piano training as a kid (and never having written a song), I taught myself to play guitar my freshman year of college and wrote my first song just a few years later. Something about the freedom to discover a new instrument on my own terms unlocked a desire to express myself creatively. Now over thirty years – and more than a thousand songs – later, I’m still moved to put new songs into the world. Writing songs is about channeling inspiration which, while exciting, is still – even after all these years – emotionally taxing. I love the feeling of “going to the well” of creativity but there are times when it simply feels better to dig into something clear and predictable. Hence, without knowing exactly why it was important to me at the time, I also built a recording studio business in tandem with my work as songwriter.
Being a recording engineer is about nuts and bolts productivity
For me (and I’m sure many of you), there is something deeply soothing about knowing exactly what to do and when. That is the essence of engineering in the studio. Whether it’s reading a four-hundred page manual to learn about a new piece of equipment or figuring out which cable to connect to which device to make everything work, audio engineering has always scratched my productivity itch. I love the precision and predictability of engineering and the satisfaction of knowing that if done properly the results are undeniable. That being said, too much precision and predictability can feel somewhat dry and uninspired which then leads me back to the emotional spelunking of songwriting.
How being a songwriter and recording engineer work together
Now here’s where things get good. My experience shows that knowing I’ll be able to capture a beautiful recording of my new song in my studio will give me the confidence and bravery to tolerate the short-term emotional chaos that songwriting brings. But, at the same time, the awareness that I’ll be writing new songs to record, provides me with extra motivation to make sure my studio equipment is updated, properly connected and running smoothly. It is in the development, maintenance and interplay of my creativity and productivity that they both flourish.
I’m certain that I was simply exploring things I found interesting when I started writing songs and putting together my first recording studio. And as a result, it wasn’t until much later that I began to understand how my right brain-inspired creativity and my left brain’s desire for precision informed one another. However, I can now say with complete confidence that they absolutely do. This is but one of many examples of how creativity and productivity work together. I’m also convinced that those of you who lean far to one side or the other on the creativity/productivity spectrum can benefit greatly by incorporating even small elements your less-developed side into your lives. The goal, in time, is to honor and grow both creativity and productivity so that they can not only help on their own but also in the way they inform one another.
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