Getting Into The Flow: Opening Yourself To The Muse

This article will help you on "How to surpass all ruts."

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In my last article "3 Ways to get out of a Songwriting Rut," I mentioned that every artist has at one time in their life been stuck in a "rut." Well, this article is not an expansion of that topic and won't discuss "How to get out of a rut," rather it will help you on "How to surpass all ruts."

If you were born and raised in modern society, than it is likely that the majority of your day is spent thinking about the past or future. Asking questions like "Why didn't I do that?" for the past or perhaps "This is my goal and how I'm going to reach it" for the future. Now I'm in no way shape or form saying this is a bad thing it's never bad to learn from the past or plan for your future. However, with that said, when we are writing music and composing we Have to be absolutely present in that particular moment. That doesn't mean you can't write on topics that have previously happened or are yet to come into existence, but it is essential to understand that the muse only flows fully and gently through those who are completely in and aware of the now.

To help bring our consciousness into the now, and thusly increase the chances of "Getting into the Flow" or having the muse flow through us, I will list a few things to do and be aware of below.

01. Breathe

Most of the time we are unconscious of our breathing; it is just something that we do naturally without thinking or being aware of. However, when we take our consciousness and place it on our breathing, a few things may happen.

  • You may notice your breathing pattern. Perhaps you take very shallow and rapid breaths normally. Try instead to focus and take larger more filling breaths.
  • When we are focused purely on our breathing, it is hard for our minds to wonder and think about the past or future. It "forces" our awareness into what is happening right now your breathing.

    02. Feel

    Author, Eckhart Tolle, asks for us to feel our "inner body" in his book "A New Earth." While that book doesn't have anything specifically to do with being an artist or creating, it has everything to do with being a human being and bringing our consciousness into the present moment.

    So what Mr. Tolle is referring to when he says, "feel your inner body," is to place all of your awareness on feeling the life that runs through your body (your hand to begin with). If you think about it, of course it may be a weird concept, but I ask you to refrain from letting your mind think in this instance. Just feel and be aware of the tingling sensation of your hand when all of your attention is placed on it.

    On a side note, Pianist and Composer Carlos Campos always asks for his students to do a similar practice, because a higher level of focus, and thusly a higher quality result, can be attained by shifting all of your awareness to the present moment and as he would say, having "body awareness."

    03. Be Open

    Last, but certainly not least, be completely open to anything and everything that flows through you. Once your "In the Flow," don't stop by critiquing or questioning what you've just written down or played (whether it be lyrics or music). There is a time and a place for you to come back, refine, polish, and critique your piece, but Now is not the time.

    I always recommend having some way of recording yourself (handheld recorder, Protools, etc.) while you're "In the Flow," because just taking the time to write notation down or the lyrics you were currently singing may be enough to hinder or completely stop the "flow." So by clicking a single button, you can record everything you play/sing and then write it down at a later time.

    Now I realize that there are some of you who are completely turned off by these ideas, whether it be because they seem to simple to work or because it almost sounds like something a Pseudo-Hollywood Hippy would say. However, I ask that before you pass judgment on these ideas, take them seriously and put them into practice when you are going through your creative process. If for some reason this "method" doesn't work for you then the only things you have lost are the stresses and worries of your day, because your consciousness was focused on the only thing we truly have. Now.

    Copyright 2008 Kole (Kyle Hicks). All rights reserved.

    Kole has finished two years studying music composition and classical guitar at Indiana University and is currently attending Musicians Institute (GBM). He has also studied with guitar virtuoso, Tom Hess, and world renowned vocalist, Jaime Vendera.

    If you would like to find out more information about Kole, his music, articles, or lessons feel free to visit his site at KoleMusician.com.

  • 31 comments sorted by best / new / date

      audiorapist
      Just the type of article i need right now, cant wait to reap the benefits from this. Thanks man.
      GeetarMachine
      Good stuff.
      jshwak wrote: good article.. Honestly, I write my best stuff in my head .. (if that makes any sense).. I can *hear* the music before I ever even come close to the fretboard..
      Im the same way. I like how you said *hear* the music because usually the music just kinda starts playing in the back of my head. What I mean is I dont "hum" a tune in my head, and then build from it, they (melodys, rhythms, ect.) just fade in like someone pushed play on a stereo.
      Masterbeefy
      jshwak wrote: good article.. Honestly, I write my best stuff in my head .. (if that makes any sense).. I can *hear* the music before I ever even come close to the fretboard..
      I do that, but my problem is a lot of the time i have trouble bringing it from my mind and putting it to my fretboard, any tips with that? And great advice Kole =]
      bassman77
      great article but not sure about the whole present thing. you say you can't write about something that has happened or might happen, all of the nile lyrics for example, focus on ancient egypt. thats in the past, so not sure whether i misread your article or what? i'm sure i'll be corrected if i have! otherwise good techniques i'll try some of those out
      jshwak
      good article.. Honestly, I write my best stuff in my head .. (if that makes any sense).. I can *hear* the music before I ever even come close to the fretboard..
      highwaysalmon
      Very nice article. I meditate often and have grown to understand the importance of how I breathe and how it can effect my music. Thanks for the tips Kole!
      CJE
      Breathing... I've never tried that one. What I usually do is consciously hear the "white noise" around you. Notice the fan blowing, or thetv in another room... the cars passing by as they blast they're music, leaves rustling, water flowing and eventually you can hear a pin drop amid the cacophony, opening yourself to new visions and focusing on the "now". Also, whenever I am stuck, or if I am angry, I vent myself by sitting in my secret place... it's a rock in the middle of a creek deep in the forest. I sit and play whatever my soul tells me to. Thx for the advice, Kole!
      atthedrive-thru
      i can't even write when i'm high i'm too busy watching tv or eating..or both, but i like to wait til i get tired around 1:30 in the morning and just isolate myself from tv, music and usually i can come up with some creative sh*t, no distractions just you the pen (or pencil) and the paper
      soBLINKad
      _GoingBlind_ wrote: I know this will sound like I'm a dork....I am, but I wirte my best songs and riffs after reading a good book, or short story, even a well written article is inspiring to me. I write the soundtrack for what played out in my head, because there is no audio or visual to books, its all mine, puts me in a place where only the music is allowed.....I'm also a stoner....j/k...no really....
      its not a coincidence that many great musicians use drugs, it undoubtedly helps to focus on what is happening in the Now, because if you're high and enjoying the present experience, then you're not thinking about the past or the future. your focusing on you and thats what makes music original. theres nothing wrong with lsitening to other peoples music obviously, but haveing this awareness of yourself is what makes your music YOUR music. *i am not not advocating the use of drugs just making an observation
      TrasherFromHell
      Exellent piece, many of us are not aware of this and sometimes when we happen to write a great riff, solo or song, we have been in that 'present' moment. The problem has been trying to get back in that moment and I think this article, whether you think is a bunch of rambling or not, can help everyone to get back into that moment they had experienced and had not been able to reach again. Good advice Kole, thanks for sharing!
      Gwynnell
      I'll give it a try later, seems a bit out there but could work, 3rd one i completely agree with though
      morning666star
      very helpful, I find myself "mind-wandering" sometimes as I play, I think I will try out these tips. also, very well written!
      JoshUrban
      Way way cool, bro! Keep up the good work! (You must like that book "Effortless Mastery" by Kenny Werner. If you don't have it, BUY IT!) Rock on!
      Kole*
      CapnKickass wrote: I wish I had something to record my playing because I come up with stuff, then tab some of it then I forget the rest and it ends up getting changed. I can't just jam a song out, since I'll forget most of it.
      One way to help remember what you've just played (if you can't record) is to repeat that section you like over and over again before you move on. I find that after I find something I like (from just jamming), that if I repeat it about 4 times all the way through and pay attention to where my fingers are going, I can recall it much easier later. Also short hand chord symbols work well if you have a blank piece of paper to write on.
      CapnKickass
      I wish I had something to record my playing because I come up with stuff, then tab some of it then I forget the rest and it ends up getting changed. I can't just jam a song out, since I'll forget most of it.
      _GoingBlind_
      I know this will sound like I'm a dork....I am, but I wirte my best songs and riffs after reading a good book, or short story, even a well written article is inspiring to me. I write the soundtrack for what played out in my head, because there is no audio or visual to books, its all mine, puts me in a place where only the music is allowed.....I'm also a stoner....j/k...no really....
      UtopiaBanished
      I noticed I write 90 percent of my most ingenious stuff when I'm not at home, or when I just heard a song or saw a movie for the first time that particularly touched me. The other 10 percent is when I'm sitting there ****ing around with chord changes and random notes.
      Kole*
      Tordyboi wrote: Another thing i like to do when i just chill out with my guitar, I turn off all the lights and just play. At night there is no outside noise to fight over your attention, but rather focus on the melody in your head. I dont watch the fretboard, i dont think, i just play. This is very relaxing.
      I used to do this too when I was younger. A great piece of advice =). Thanks to everyone for reading and I'm glad you've all found it helpful! -Kole
      Tordyboi
      Another thing i like to do when i just chill out with my guitar, I turn off all the lights and just play. At night there is no outside noise to fight over your attention, but rather focus on the melody in your head. I dont watch the fretboard, i dont think, i just play. This is very relaxing.
      virtussilex
      It's funny, I think I actually were aware of a lot of the points stated. But I have never really thought much about it, it all happened in my subconscious. But now that I can read it on paper and get an understanding it helped me a lot. Thanks a bunch! In a lot of my songs I actually like to combine the future with the present. It makes it somewhat mysterious in my opinion. Anyway that was a great help!
      peacemoles
      cool artical. third yay. nice one, the breathing one is true! it helps if your breathing propably to relax alot!
      skuldugery
      ghostofhendrix : After reading the title, I thought this article was about Muse... lol
      I thought that too. But I read the article anyway. MUSE ARE AWESOME!!!!!