Looking After Your Most Important Musical Asset
Updated: Dec 3, 2018
OK this sounds rather cheesy, but bear with me here. Let's get it out of the way first. Your most important musical asset....is you. Another thing that is also usually overlooked by a lot of composers, well at least, by me, for the longest time is...physical fitness. As commercial composers with many projects going on simultaneously, with multiple deadlines and your reputation on the line, it is only too easy for us to let other things not related to our profession fall by the wayside. Constantly holed-up in our studio, segregated from the outside world, your family, your friends, all in the name of making sure you get your music done to the best of your ability for the project. Any of this sounds familiar?
I get that it's really important to get your stuff done on time for any client. I just think it is just as important (if not MORE important) to make sure you take the time to look after your personal well-being. When I was just starting out, I would sacrifice everything to make sure I met deadlines, no matter how crazy they were, and I never even gave even a fleeting thought at the idea of taking the time to attend to other aspects of my well-being. As a result, my health was affected negatively to say the least. Working late nights, sometimes all night, and snacking at strange times, drinking sugary and caffeine-laden drinks to keep awake, started to take its toll on me. When the stress and pressure pile up, so does my food / snack intake. Thank goodness I never took to smoking (as many people in the media production industry do) to cope with the stresses of my work, because I would probably have even more health issues. I knew that something had to change.
So nowadays, even if I am in the midst of projects, I do my best to allocate one hour per day to some form of physical activity, be it jogging, walking around in the park, or hitting the gym. I also try stick to this as best I can, even though sometimes it can be pretty tough to consistently keep up. Even if I miss a day, either due to actual work commitments or if I'm just plain ol' lazy, I try to tell myself not to be too beat up about it and just resume my schedule the next day.
It doesn't really matter how little or how much you devote to physical activity, as long as you
make it a point to do it at least 3 times a week. Okay, to be more exact, at least 3 times a week of physical activity lasting at least 30 minutes each time. Studies have shown that any form of elevated cardiovascular activity for at least 20 - 30 minutes at least 3 times a week increases life expectancy significantly. But enough research from the Internet, which we all know to be ABSOLUTELY TRUE.
How does this translate to real-world benefits for us composers? Well I for one, have a much better sense of well-being, and I seem to have a much higher tolerance towards the pressures of tight deadlines. Also, there's something to be said about just taking yourself out of your regular work area, to give you different perspectives on things. If nothing else, it just gets me to not think of music production for at least one hour. Just to be clear....there are times (quite a lot actually) when I feel too lazy to get my fat ass out of bed for my workout, and there are times when I just choose to stay in bed. The important thing is, I go out to workout slightly more often than not, and that's already a win for me.
Another thing that taking the time out to get some exercise is, this is the time when I get to listen to the latest music on Spotify, and this helps me stay current in terms of musical styles, which actually helps a lot when working on commercial projects. I also find that some of my most interesting ideas actually happen whenever I am not working. For example, I get some brilliant ideas (to me, anyway) when I'm in the shower and also when I am out walking or exercising. I think it's because my mind is free to wander and explore possibilities when it is not concentrating on the job at hand.
Plus, I always seem refreshed and ready to take on the craziness of my profession after some physical activity.
I know sometimes it's really hard to tear oneself away from their work, especially if the passion for it is strong, but there are some other aspects of your day to day life that need developing as well, and most of them have nothing to do with music production at all. If you take care of the rest of you, the music part of you will only stand to reap the benefits.
The key to success here is not in going out for one crazy workout session and then suffer through sprains and strains everywhere, never to workout again.
The important thing is for you to do something at a pace or intensity that makes you able to keep doing it everyday or at least 3 times a week. Even if it is just doing, for example, just 5 sit-ups a day. Just make sure that you do those 5 sit-ups everyday without fail. Or even if is just doing 10-jumping jacks. I'm pretty sure you could probably do a lot more, but the idea here is for you to be able to do this everyday without getting burnt out. Your mantra should not be INTENSITY. It should be CONSISTENCY. It's better to do exercises with less intensity but more consistently rather than do exercises with high intensity but inevitably burn yourself out before even becoming consistent.
Here are some links to some very helpful individuals on YouTube who have helped to shape my path towards better fitness:
NOTE: Don't worry if you can't keep up with some of the routines, just do what you can, and then just do the same simplified routine (that you are able to do) again and again, and pretty soon, you'll be able to do that with a little more ease, and then you will be able to do more.