When Making Art is Painful

There are days when I’m working on my music that go really well. I come home from my studio happy and energized, knowing I’ve accomplished a lot. 

Today was not one of those days. And I’d like to dig into why, because it’s one of those things that I think will help other creative types get through the tough times. 

What’s just as important here is to point out that even though today was tiring and difficult, even draining, great progress on a new song was made. That’s the lesson. Even when work isn’t super-pleasant, what’s important is that you showed up and worked.

So what made today a bad recording day? 

First of all, I was really tired. Never a good thing. Secondly, I was trying something I don’t do often—recording guitar tracks with an amp, not my usual Line 6 Pod Farm. Trying new things can be frustrating because you don’t know if it’s the best way, and also because experimentation has nothing to do with linear accomplishment. That’s why it’s called experimentation. Thirdly, I was playing guitar in a style I wasn’t used to, which falls into that category of trying something new and unfamiliar. This makes you stretch and grow as an artist, but it’s often just fucking painful and depressing, because it’s not something you do well… yet. 

In this case, I was trying to play plucky lead guitar parts in a major key, which I can do, but it’s not necessarily my go-to sound or in my wheelhouse. It was incredibly slow going. 

And this is what I want to share with any fan and/or artist reading this post: You should keep going through the pain. Like a workout. But you should also know when it’s just time to move on to something else. About halfway through my session today, I knew when I’d hit that point, and I moved on to recording the drum parts for the same song, drums coming way more naturally to me than trying new things on guitar (I love guitar, but I am not a shredding improv king on guitar… I have to dig deeper and work hard to find my licks, melodies, and grooves, especially for lead parts).

This is my DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) at home. Nothing fancy, as you can see, but it gets the job done. 

Here’s the moral of the story: 

Making art is hard work, and some days it’s just painful. But as they say in the fitness world, no pain, no gain. You have to have the fortitude and discipline to push yourself through both the good and bad workouts.

By forcing myself to plow through today’s recording session, by not looking at my phone during the session, and by sticking to a schedule, I walked away with the guitar parts I need (for the most part), and definitely the drum tracks that I know will be part of the final recording. 

At the end of the day, that’s all that matters. Because the more you get done on a regular basis, the sooner you can release new music. And that is something you can count on.