Your Questions: How Should A Home Producer Motivate Himself?

DJ Omikt

Making music from home for a living is a dream for many, but if you have the chance to give it a go, you need to get organised to have a chance of succeeding.

Digital DJ Tips reader Mathieu writes: "I have got a question about being a 'lifestyle producer'. I do my music work must of the time from home (producing tracks, finding new music, making podcast, working on my mailing lists...) but I find that sometimes it can be a 'lonely experience' (less contact socially due to working from home), and I also find myself sometimes getting distracted. How should someone like me manage a typical day?"

Digital DJ Tips says:

Firstly you're very lucky to be doing what you're doing, because I'm sure lots of readers would love to be in your position!

Regarding motivating yourself, I've many times worked out of my home in the past (writer, DJ/promoter), and I've always found that having a routine helps a lot. Also setting long, medium and short-term goals, and being held accountable to them by someone (a best friend, a partner). That way, there's someone who knows what you "said" you were going to achieve.

From those goals, you can write a weekly or even daily to-do list that contains the next step or couple of steps to take in all of the areas you listed; then each day, you only have to look at your to-do list to know what you should be getting on with. I haven't forgotten that music making is a creative thing, not number-crunching in a cubicle, but as another creative person (the writer, Peter de Vries) famously said: "I believe I can't write unless I'm inspired but I make sure I'm inspired every day at 9am."

Regarding isolation, the "internet age" has led to an awful lot of people working from home with less social contact. You don't need me to explain how social networks work, but you should try to meet up with other electronic artists who are at your level in your area regularly too: Hang out, go and see a show or two, forge connections. These will help you achieve those goals you set out - because truth is even if you're a home worker, nobody ever did anything big in isolation.

Do you produce music as a job from home? Have you ever had to motivate yourself in a job where it's "just you"? Do you have any tips to share? Please do so in the comments.

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  1. Mr. Delirious says:

    I feel that that Peter de Vries quote pretty much sums it up. Motivation and inspiration is all a part of a 'professional' additude.
    As someone who produces from home, I find that when I have no contact with people face to face the things I produce actually sound worse. There's no inspiration issue, but just quality wise. Meeting up with people once or twice a week really clears this problem.

  2. Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen says:

    For anyone looking for a good way to handle time management, I would recommend the free ebook "Zen To Done".


  3. DJ Homei says:

    I work from home and I personally I'm fighting burnout from staring at a screen all day. That in itself is isolating. It was harder when I was single. I would go to coffeeshops just at least be around other people. But even now it gets like that, with my lovely wife coming home every night.

    I shift my work mode to be around people and do things that don't involve computers. Sometimes I'll write things on paper just to break up the flow. Or just go outside or exercise to physically break things up. Become a Luddite!

    Another thing I've done is force myself to get started in the day. I'm not a morning person. So it was real easy for me to waste half the morning surfing the internet while the coffee kicked in. Now I time myself.

    • Wylatron says:

      Ok well I'd say step 1 is to turn the screen off as often as you can.
      Seeing waveforms is excellent, but I found freedom from 'screen burn' by just turning it off when I'm not actively editing. Your ears will become sharper when you aren't looking at the LCD. True story;)

      As for staying motivated, you need to use a bit of self awareness, maybe you are CREATIVE from 9am-11am, maybe that's when your CREATIVE juices are flowing. So that's when to write or fiddle about making patches...and maybe later in the day you don't feel as CREATIVE, but feel more ANALITICAL/PRACTICAL....and that's a very good time to edit/do the upkeep stuff, or something more attuned to how YOU are at that time of day, LIKE ORGANIZING YOUR SAMPLES/music with meta tags.
      My point is that we have different parts of our day where we sort of go into different modes, and not to fight that, but to map it out a bit, make that work for you;) best advice I ever got:)

  4. DJ_ForcedHand says:

    I've always found "meeting with of similarly-interested artists" one of the hardest things to do. It's not that there aren't any out there, nor that other artists cannot collaborate with me, I find that if I meet with people, they're generally not on the same page as me, or most of my hang-out sessions are complete wastes of time. Please, if you have any ideas how to separate the wheat from the chaff, I'd love to hear anyone's ideas. I'm stuck right now (artistically) and I'm unmotivated as I look at all my expensive gear.

    • DJ Homei says:

      I'd suggest re-assessing your motivations for collaboration. What do you really want? Your post suggests you're looking to meet others to inject you with inspiration. On the other hand, you're rejecting these connections as "complete wastes of time" and "chaff"

      When I produced music years ago, I was hell-bent on having a soulful "black" singer. I walked away from many talented singers that didn't have that vocal style. In hindsight, I missed some great opportunities because I couldn't accept their creative approach.

      • What I really want is playing music when I plan to meet and collaborate, not the persistently side-tracked conversations about things non-music related (this is what I mean by "wastes of time" and "chaff." I'm cool with talking about other things because that's what concept sessions are all about, but this "making no progress" thing is disconcerting due to a lack of follow through (for one reason or another). I get a lot of talking and almost zero playing. The people I hang out with now always want to "talk shop" and not do anything. I want to get on with making tunes.

        So how do I find people interested in actually making songs? I couldn't get this to happen when I started making music in the early '90s and I still seem to not have that knack (shadows of the past when I quit making music the first time).

      • DJ Homei says:

        Now I see where you're coming from. I've run into that, too. I think the best indicator of this is that they've already shown initiative and have a web site with already made tracks, etc.

        If I were to return to music production, I wouldn't waste my time with anybody who didn't have a demo out. No excuse for that with today's low-cost production tools.

        I suppose you're doing that already. Maybe just a rule 1st meeting at a coffeeshop, 2nd at a studio, 3rd meeting only if they make stuff.

        If you're collaborating with a singer or instrumental musician, I'd make the first meeting about the songs you'd work together in meeting #2. Then I'd be easy for them to show up and sing or play, and you could get collaborative energy flowing again.

        You'd also have more control of the process, and give people an easy "in." Especially if you said you heard them play and wrote a track with their talent/style in mind. Who could say no to that?

  5. If you're feeling unmotivated, it's good to get out of the studio and do something else to clear your mind, whatever your mind clearing activity may be. Other times, you can't always wait for inspiration, you have to seek it. Try to make at least 30 minutes a day to do music. You will make progress no matter what.

  6. Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen says:

    Since you mentioned writers, I know the majority of them write in total isolation. And have since the dawn of time. So I doubt that the isolation to work in is the most important factor.

    Obviously obtaining a balance between the work and the off time is very important. Having someone coming home in the afternoon providing you with another incenctive to stop working and start not-working (not necessarily the same as relaxing :-)).

    You talk about it being a creative process, not number crunching. However, as most creative people will tell you, the creative process is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Translated: slugging away even if nothing good seems to come out of your hands.

    I have a friend who writes articles. He sits down every weekday and writes articles for two hours. Regardless. There are days he tosses yesterday's work in the waste paper bin. But that doesn't frustrate him (anymore I most say, he used to hate the "waste" of time). He now knows that those two hours of writing "not what he wanted" were necessary to facilitate the writing of "what he wanted" today.

    It's his firm believe that he would be far less productive AND creative if he didn't do the "bad" two hour stints. It has gotten to the point where, when he notices that it's "one of those days" he almost get's excited, because he knows one of the very next days he'll come up with something good.

    So, through slugging away he has now come to embrace the "off" periods and they are no longer stressful or frustrating. Resulting in more mental peace. Which I think is a prerequisite for being truely creative.

    Obviously all this stuff is easier said than done.

    The general idea here however being that even if you feel you are not getting anywhere, don't stop the process by going off to do something else to "find inspiration", but just keep at it and embrace the results, however "bad" and "uninspiring" they may seem at the time.


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