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A Wellness Primer for Musicians

4 mins read

If you’re anything like me, finding wellness and creative energy during turbulent times can be elusive. There are days when the keyboard at my fingertips seems to play itself—but lately, I often sit staring, completely blank.

The current pandemic has been detrimental to our creative wellness. Psychologists point to the impact of our environment on creative energy. Activities like traveling abroad can help us recharge our batteries. Without such options, we may feel shut in with plenty of time to create, but lacking motivation.

Still, there are specific things musicians can do to stay creative, despite challenges. Because playing music combines muscle memory and spatial navigation with cerebral creativity, staying physically and mentally active is crucial for wellness.

Natural Inspiration

Take advantage of outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and camping. We may not be able to travel far, but most of us have access to some natural escape. If you don’t, walking around a new neighborhood in your city is a great substitute. The goal is to let your creative mind recharge while your brain continues working in the background. Try taking these walks or hikes without earbuds so you can absorb the sounds around you.

If you’re the type who needs music—that’s cool, too. Listening to an unfamiliar musical genre can give your mind new reference points. Seeing different sites and hearing fresh sounds on a regular basis goes a long way towards keeping you balanced and on the road to wellness.

Challenge Unlocked

Have you attempted to learn a complicated musical part, but no matter how hard you tried, couldn’t master it in a single sitting? Maybe you put your instrument down in frustration. As if by magic, the next time you picked up your instrument, you could play the part. While doing other things, maybe occasionally thinking about the arrangement, your mind worked through the challenge.

This is a perfect example of how to remain creatively charged and support your wellness. Science suggests our brains aren’t skilled at separating reality from fantasy. Simply thinking about a creative problem can help solve the issue. If you’re stuck, whether because you can’t find the right chord to get the chorus going or a sound escapes you, try setting your instrument aside and doing something else entirely. Next time, visualize playing the part first. It may feel hokey, but picturing potential problems helps your mind formulate workarounds, even unconsciously.

The Fine Art of Staying Curious

Creative energy feeds on curiosity. If you’re feeling uninspired, consider the content you’re consuming. If you’re obsessed with the news, spending hours on Reddit, or watching reruns of The Office, there’s a chance you’re not stimulating your curiosity. Research shows reading is great for engaging creativity. The material needn’t be hi-brow; just find a book you enjoy on an intriguing subject. Whether escaping or learning, reading helps recharge your creative battery.

Even after spending a few months indoors, creative wellness depends on many factors you can control. Get out in nature, listen to varied music, read a new book, and use visualization to triumph over creative roadblocks. You’ll be surprised by how well these small practices can prime your creative pump.

Benjamin Heywood

Heywood is a lifelong Californian who now splits time between Los Angeles and the high desert. He is co-founder of the record label Chain Letter Collective and founded Chain Letter Press as a publishing home for both his creative output and copywriting. He lives with his spouse and their dog, Scully.