In 2019, I was in PEAK hustle and flow mode! I was ready to record my EP in whoever’s basement that would let me and sell chicken boxes to promote if I had to! I was booking myself and killing it on social media while maintaining my survival income as a working musician. I was actually living the working musician’s dream! I had a craft-related survival gig: wedding band singing! That paid my rent and living expenses while all of my other gigs went back into my artistry. I had a system in place and was ready to write my EP, SELF AWARE!
I sat down to write and DUST!! NOTHING came out! 😫😫 I couldn’t believe it! I finally have time, space and opportunity and nothing is flowing! So rather than beating my head against the wall hoping a song would come to me, I called a few friends that create often and asked for advice! For 5 habits every creator must practice, read the advice they gave PLUS a couple of life lessons I picked up along the way!
TIP #1 - DO A CHECK IN
Danni Baylor was the first person I called. I called her because she was not only a long time friend but she also was a songwriter who would understand how life could get in the way of creativity! And guess what? She did. Not to mention, on a business level, she has original songs alongside some of her songwriting and production credits for mainstream artists! Go ahead and tap her picture above to see her receipts for yourself!
She encouraged me to take inventory of my lifestyle as it relates to creativity. The main TWO things she told me to ask myself are:
1. When are you most creative?
Why does this matter? If you know this, then rather than trying to fit creativity into your lifestyle, you can plan your lifestyle around your creativity!
For me, it is EARLY in the morning. Like, not 9am early, like 3-6am early!! I had already created a machine where I had flexibility in my schedule so I was able to honor those creative times and now, I still wake up during those hours with songs but I don’t plan meetings or any work tasks until after 12pm in case I had a morning where my ideas were flowing so I won’t be exhausted and trying to function on fumes.
2. What inspires you to create?
If you know this, you can make sure those things always exist in your life! Live music, water and motion inspire me to create.
Living in NYC, I could go ANYWHERE to hear live music! I could go sit in a subway station and listen to someone sing or play or walk down the street to whatever restaurant had a jazz trio or open mic. Looking at or being near water makes me want to create. When I was a child, I spent a lot of summers in the Caribbean and being near water makes me feel connected to what I know! And lastly, motion. I wrote “Best in Me” in its entirety on a train ride from Washington Heights to Brooklyn. It was a trip I took weekly but a solid hour on the train and in that hour, the song just flowed easily. I write songs in the car ALL the time now that I am back in the DMV, I enjoy road trips because I usually have some idea or song created when I’m done.
TIP # 2 - CREATE DAILY
Danae Smith is one of my oldest sister-friends. We met when I was around 16. Even now, she’s pretty much the FIRST person I call when I need prayer. She is also one of the first people I call when it comes to writing anything! She has a beautiful blog called This Wondrous Life (CHECK IT OUT!) that she’s been writing for years and has a degree in creative writing. So I knew she could speak to the creative and writing aspects of creation, whether they were in song or story form!
One of my biggest takeaways from my conversation with her was to CREATE DAILY! She told me that she had a professor in college tell her that writing is a muscle and like every other muscle in your body, it gets weak when it's underused!
So I started writing and recording song ideas, doodling things, making graphics, cooking and even writing raps every day! It’s giving Issa Rae, sis! I remember I would write raps on my bus trips back and forth from NYC to DC while helping to care for my father. It didn’t matter what I created, it was just important to work that muscle of creating SOMETHING daily and before I knew it, my mind was waking me up with lyrics and melodies at 3am just like old times! As a matter of fact, the rap that I did in my own flip of Janelle Monáe’s Tightrope was partially written on one of those very trips! So, sometimes, you can create something in your everyday routine that will be the perfect missing puzzle piece to another creation.
TIP # 3 - LET IT BREATHE
My triflin ex-boyfriend did leave me with a few gems that I still live by as a creator. One of those valuable gems, despite the dustiness of its origin, was to not record or write down lyrics or melodies when they first come to you. If it’s good, you’ll remember it when you come back to it or you’ll hear it in your head even when you’re not trying. This seemed terrifying to me at first but watching him, and then putting it into practice, he was right or whatever. 🙄 This section will be short, like his ability to tell the truth to me. So that’s it. If it’s good, IT WILL STICK WITH YOU!
TIP #4 - PROTECT YOUR CREATIVITY "Now, keep in mind that I'm an artist and I'm sensitive about my shit." - Erykah Badu
I learned this from getting opinions from people I later realized weren’t my consumer base. This is IMPORTANT!! Your musician friends ARE NOT YOUR FANS!!! Take their opinions with a grain of salt! Unless they are someone who has been successful as a creator, don’t share your creations with people who have nothing to offer it! If they aren’t a fan/consumer who consumes your end result, I ONLY share my creations with people who can add value to it! That may sound crazy but this even applies to my family and close friends: it was important to only include people in the creative process that I needed to contribute to it! Sharing my creations with my colleagues started putting criticism in my head that was solely based on their taste and experiences and again, none of them had even done an EP or had any credits or placements so what did they have to offer to me? Not a thing!
I have also learned to protect my creative time, energy and space! I am not on social media or texting while I’m creating. I am fully present in what story the creation wants me to tell. I know that sounds real “my chakras have to align” but I promise, treating my creativity like it is my newborn baby has afforded me the mental and emotional space to create honestly!
TIP #5 - KNOW YOUR WHY
Once you’ve created and you’re ready to share it with the world. Make sure you know why you’re sharing it before you do. As I always preach, a marketing strategy is key to any release as an artist. That being said, knowing your “why” for putting it out is important! Is it because you want to share your art with the world to bring healing, relatability, fun or what? What do you want your consumers to get from your creation? Is it to get your music out there because you just need something real quick that’s current? I’ve been in both positions! Nothing wrong with either!
“Hair Down” was a cover I arranged in partnership with Adwoa Beauty. Since I recorded and produced it, I had free reign to do whatever I wanted with it. I decided to throw it up on Distrokid right before The Voice started because I wanted one more 2020 single up before the show aired and our contracts began. I already recorded it and owned the masters so I made album art on Canva and then uploaded it and released it the day before our contract started. There was no plan to market it, I just wanted an example of me producing and arranging a cover in the same place as my original music. Because I had a clear why, there was no expectation or stress of how people would consume it. But now, I have a whole song that I use in conversation with important people as a sample of my production and arrangement that I am proud of at my fingertips.
Listen to my cover of “Hair Down” by SIR featuring Kendrick Lamar HERE!