Adventure to Motivate
Recently, I’ve been feeling uncreative, unmotivated, unwilling to pick up a guitar and play. I was in a musical rut, worse than writer’s block. I was physically and mentally detached from a thing I loved the most.
At times I realized how I was spending my time and how I could be spending my time better, and that was by practicing guitar and writing for my band Eerie Shores. But when I forced myself to pick it up, I got frustrated.
I played for a few minutes, trying to come up with a fun progression, riff, lick, anything to keep my hands on the thing. Still, my frustration overwhelmed my playing, and the guitar was placed back on its stand to be untouched for another day. Since then, I was afraid I had fallen out of love with playing guitar and writing music.
What made it worse was I didn’t know how or when I would find the motivation to play again. Naturally, this really bothered me because I felt exposed and out of place.
A musician in a band that won’t pick up his guitar? Won’t learn a song? Those thoughts scanned my brain looking for a reason and motivation to get back into a fun routine of music. Little did I know it wouldn’t take much to gain back my motivation.
Who would have thought that the 1965 American musical drama film, The Sound of Music, would speak some truth? No, I didn’t find musical motivation from watching the film, but Julia Andrews was oh so right!
The hills really are alive with the sound of music. My motivation came from merely listening to the great outdoors. You see, recently I took a trip to the beautiful Saranac Lake region in the Adirondacks. (I have just as much of love and appreciation for the camping and the wilderness as I do for music).
My friends and I spent five days primitive camping on a tiny island that we kayaked our gear to. The island was just our home base for food and sleep as we kayaked back to the mainland to spend most of our days hiking some of the high peaks, creeks, and ventures into Lake Placid.
It was a very physically demanding vacation and required lots of planning and awareness to be able to stay safe and enjoy ourselves at the moment. Still, the views we were able to see when we reached our hiking destinations were gratifying.
For most of the trip, my phone was turned off. Service was poor, so having my phone roaming would drain the battery faster, but when there was service, I used it for occasionally texting my friends and family each day, so they knew I was safe and also for showing off some pictures on my Instagram story. Other than that, I was off of it about 90% of the trip. (My average screen time a day was 1 hour and 22 min to be exact).
Being off my phone more than normal for a week made me realize an enormous change mentally and physically. Physically I noticed I was more engaged in conversation with my friends. I had felt a new yet familiar self that I had missed because of cell phone distraction.
One that was sharing more stories, cracking more jokes, and being a better listener when my friends and others were talking. I also noticed I was able to enjoy the adventures better, having seemingly more energy with boosts of motivation to push on higher and further.
This was because I was able to listen to my body more during this trip. I knew when to catch my breath, drink water, eat the right kinds of snacks, give me energy, and not just make me feel full, and simply stop and sleep. These were things I felt my cell phone usage has suppressed. Mental changes from this trip is where the music comes in.
Going a week basically off my phone entirely also included going a week without listening to much music. I didn’t have enough room to bring an acoustic guitar among the rest of my backpacking gear, so I had to go without it.
Because of this, my mind was left to be guided by nature and people that surrounded me. It made me think and eventually discover that I had lost the motivation to pick up a guitar and play because I was doing nothing that inspired my motivation to play.
Prior to the Trip
Before the trip, I found myself spending more time away from guitar and more time on my phone, scrolling through tweets from people that hold no relevance to my life, and basically drowning in blue light distractions due to quarantine.
It was unlike me to become more attached to my phone because I’m usually very good at disciplining myself to stay off it at times as I’m very aware of how my generation is with their phone usage.
But because quarantine kept me away from meeting people, going places to socialize, and even our routine band practice, to name a few, it was easy to become addicted to things that kept my attention span short yet satisfied. I had nothing new to experience in the outside world because little was happening in my life.
Still, for social media, there’s always something happening. News and content are constant on there, and I began to find comfort in that, sadly. Inspiration was running thin, and my guitar had not been touched in weeks.
As I spent the entire trip off my phone and away from music, witnessing incredible views in the Adirondacks, it surprisingly made my mind think about music more than it had while staying inside for quarantine. I thought, “how can someone write a song about something if they have experienced nothing?” Something which can be true for every scenery.
I found that even nature has its own soundtrack that someone can grab inspiration from. Beats and rhythms made by loose stones rolling down a mountain, birds singing melodies as they fly overhead, the wind blowing atmospheric sounds though the trees, even the rain hitting a lake at a steady tempo. These ideas can be applied to city life also.
We just need to remember that if we are not experiencing everyday life socially in nature or in a city, instead of spending more time concerned about social media, then it becomes challenging to find inspiration for beautiful songs.
I bet you that if you sing the line “The hills are alive with the sound of music,” you picture the exact scene and setting Julia Andrews is in (if you’ve seen the movie, of course). Blue sky, a flower-filled meadow with the mountain range in the background.
I also bet that the writers of that song were without a doubt walking around outside when that melody came to mind. Their inspiration for the song literally surrounded them. They were experiencing it. To compare, after experiencing my adventure, I noticed my urge to play guitar had grown more durable and more reliable over the days. Melodies filled my head again, and song ideas flowed naturally.
When I woke up the morning after my return home from the trip, I poured a cup of coffee and played my guitar for 4 hours straight. I played as I had reconnected with a longtime friend. It was so natural and enjoyable that I knew I never wanted to lose touch of my guitar ever again.
I know this quarantine is stringent for many of us, but don’t let it hold you back from experiencing life’s true beauties. Do what’s necessary to keep yourself and others safe from this disease, but remember that the world around us shapes us and helps form decisions for us.
If you take away your view of the world, you lose sight of yourself and the things you love. I learned a lot about myself during my trip, and I’m happy that simply exploring was all it took to get out of a rut. Maybe that’s the solution for many of us struggling to find inspiration to finish other projects. Take a break from your phone and go adventure!
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