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Developing discipline in your free time to do music can be one of the biggest factors that keeps adults from following their deep rooted passionate desire to create music.
There’s a reason you were so much less distracted when you were a teenager, playing guitar in your parents basement for hours on end; it was easier then.
It’s tough enough living the life of an adult, but when you throw in a time + emotion consuming relationship, you can expect your productivity to go way down.
Why don’t we put it into perspective…
Problem #1: Less Time For Yourself And Music
You have 168 hours this week to do whatever you want.
If you have a job, minus 40 hours of your week (give or take 5 hours). Want to sleep this week? Minus another 56 hours. You now have 72 hours (3 full days) to choose what you are going to do with your time.
Well you still need to eat, so minus another 10 hours out of your week (at a MINIMUM, that’s approximately 21 meals), you now have 62 hours left for yourself.
You can play music (or write it), promote your band, go on Facebook, read a book, spend time with your immediate family, see your friends, play video games, check your email, watch TV, go to church, take care of your crazy brother who always gets into trouble at the most inconvenient hours; etc.
*big breath and sigh*
You have 62 hours to do these things, and if you have a wife or girlfriend in your life, you probably now only have 1/3 of that (depending on how much you like that person, let’s pretend you really like them).
That’s right, you didn’t hear me wrong. You now have between 15-25 hours for yourself for the whole week! To do all of those things I mentioned above!
That’s about 2-3 hours a day.
If you didn’t have that relationship, you would have about 8 hours a day for yourself to do these things.
“But Andrew!” you might say. “How can I possibly give up relationships for music?” Well let’s not jump to conclusions so quickly.
It would be silly for me to suggest that you shouldn’t have a relationship because it takes from you. We are human creatures, and instilled in our biology is a desire for companionship.
Besides, life isn’t just made up of “what’s in it for me?” decisions. Deciding to be with someone adds to your life in some area’s, but also requires sacrifices in others. It’s really not black and white.
Some people are able to look at relationships in a very expendable way. And yes, if you boil relationships down to such a granular level as “how much time do they take from me?”, it can be easy to write off such a relationship because you need to “focus on your career”.
I feel that people are far more precious than judging their worth by such a robotic mechanism, but that doesn’t defeat the fact: people take up your time!
How do you value that most special person to you, while still having adequate focus on your music to make a difference?
What’s the Solution? Discipline.
If you spend too much time with your partner, communicate to them in a kind and gentle way that you need time for yourself, and for your music.
You need to be able to say “no” to your partner for that impulsive late night movie, and work on your craft instead. I don’t mean skipping out on planned dates, note I used the word “impulsive”. Of course, if you hadn’t planned to do music that night anyways, then you might as well be a bit spontaneous.
I repeat: This does not mean to neglect your partner, or stop taking them out on dates, or anything like that.
It simply means that instead of choosing your partner 95% of the time, and music 5% of the time, you start choosing music 15-25% of the time, and your partner 75% of the time, or whatever ratio you feel is what you would need to be successful as a musician. You might need a significantly higher ratio for yourself, what matters is that you think about it and assess how things are.
Create a plan, be intentional about how you spend your time, and be willing to say “no” if your partner wants to take you away from your music. And be willing to do it very gently.
Hopefully you are with someone who actually wants to support you in your goals, even if that means conquering their own inner-jealousy (anything that takes you away from your partner can naturally cause them to feel a bit jealous).
If you can’t find someone who can do that, you might want to consider what type of road they are leading you on (one of freedom and mutual submission towards each other, or a road of control and slavery).
Think about it ya turkey.
Problem #2: Divided Emotional Energy
Writing music can take a lot out of you.
Writing genuinely requires patience, time, effort, and a serious connection with your inner self.
When your emotional energies start to be focused on someone else (like they should be when you’re in a relationship), your connection with your inner-self can sometimes weaken.
And while the connection with someone else is incredible and requires your energy, becoming out of touch with yourself can be a dangerous move for your continued creativity.
This is a difficult solution, as it requires a balance between who you were when you were single, and who you are in your relationship. Your natural tendency is to focus more on the relationship, because it’s very exciting to be around someone you love and are attracted to.
But shifting that focus just a few smidgens in your own direction will not only improve your music, but it gives you more things to discuss in your relationship as well. It garners respect from your partner, and leads to a stronger relationship in the end.
Trust me, someone who has “their own thing”, is a very very attractive partner indeed. It’s really hard to respect someone when they base all their decisions off of “what you might think about it”. This is not to be confused with ignoring your partner’s opinion entirely.
So What’s The Solution?
Invest in yourself as well as your partner.
Write in a journal and get your thoughts on paper. Writing down your thoughts helps you to be honest with yourself. If you are suppressed in any way, you need to validate your emotions somewhere.
If you feel suppressed about an issue, write it down. If you’re still thinking about it a week later, I recommend you bring it up for discussion. This keeps you from nitpicking and causing fights over tiny issues that don’t really matter anyways, but still gives you a voice for issues that could harm the way you view that person. It takes self-discipline to bite your tongue in this way!
Continue searching for self improvement and self discovery, while simultaneously searching for deeper intimacy in your relationship.
Balance is possible! Take it from someone who is incredibly imbalanced, and has had to practically learn from a textbook how to be balanced.
Problem #3: Less Money To Spend On Music
This one is a pretty simple one. When you are dating or are married to someone, you will spend money on them.
Sorry, there’s no way around this. It’s just a part of life!
And the only real solution is to either make more money, or start to budget with your partner in mind so that you have some free money to spend on music. Or do both (best case scenario).
Pretty simple really…
Problem #4: Being In A Bad Relationship (Or With “The Wrong One”)
Being in a bad or unhealthy relationship is probably the most detrimental thing you can ever do to your creativity, especially if they don’t support your music. This is the one that is going to ruin you.
The levels of depression, anxiety, and suppression you experience can sometimes reach tremendous levels.
If you are currently trapped in one, or are about to be, you can kiss your musical creativity goodbye.
And I don’t just mean people who are abusive or jerks (although I mean them too!).
If you are with someone who is the “wrong one”, the level of anxiety you experience as you move deeper into the relationship and commitment can be huge; it’s more than enough to take away your creativity.
I thought about trying to explain what the “wrong one” looks like, but I realized that that is simply too large of a topic for me to cover in this article; there are entire books and genres dedicated to that subject.
Though I do recommend that you pay attention to the effect that the person you are with has on you.
What’s The Solution?
It’s easy to say, but difficult to do: If you’re with the wrong one…
…GET OUT! Jump ship, cut the cord, dump the load, scatter, split, pinch the loaf, suck it up, eat an egg, shoot the deer, sweep the mice, take out the recycling, burn the trash, drink the poison, nut the sack, drop the bag, flush the crap.
If they are right for you, they will come back into your life sooner or later.
Then you’ll find someone better. So don’t worry, grow a pair, and do what needs to be done so you can enjoy your life and write amazing; fulfilling music!
Now I realize that I haven’t said very much in this article that you don’t already know. It doesn’t take the sharpest mind to realize that relationships take up your time, energy, and emotions.
But I wanted to frame your relationship as a very real, more tangible problem that may slow down your creativity.
There are many successful people who are where they are today because they sacrificed their relationships in favour of a career. I personally do not believe that this is a good way to live. We are human beings, and are meant to be in relationship with others.
But if you can find a way to balance your relationships and career (you do see music as a lifelong thing, right?), you’ll find yourself a much more moderate and useful person, without sacrificing a relationship.
“Sometimes the prize is not worth the costs. The means by which we achieve victory are as important as the victory itself.”
― Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings”
If you already have balance in that area, then I’m surprised you even read this far. For those of you that don’t have balance, take 10 minutes to meditate and reflect upon how the relationships in your life affect your music and discipline.
Do this without any distractions (cell phone, computer, books, etc.) to interrupt you.
You might find that you need to put up a few boundaries in order to make things run smoother, perhaps even just in your general relationships (rather than your romantic ones).
For example, I find it particularly challenging to work at home on music (or this website) without having people interrupt me and ruin my focus. They seem to believe that just because I work at home it means that I’m fully available for their interruption. Of course, they would never think to interrupt me if I physically went to a workplace, but that’s beside the point.
What’s important is that I’ve started to ask the people around me not to disrupt me before 4pm. They wouldn’t do that anyways if we weren’t in close physical proximity (the same house), so this boundary is important to establish.
I realize that’s a bit off track, but I hope it gives you some ideas for how you can start to establish some boundaries in your life so that you can create more of an intentional, conscious focus on your music, rather than being whisked away by whichever emotion happens to grab you at the time.
Today’s Take Away Lesson?
Develop discipline with how you spend your time, even when it involves romance. Spend time alone, write in a journal, and shed relationships that destroy your creativity.