So what’s this creative zone anyway? Well, have you ever felt this weird, pure and powerful joy while playing music you haven’t played before, or doing anything else creative? Like composing something, or improvising, or coming up with new things on the fly? This peculiar feeling when the world around you ceases to exist (kinda)? The strangely uplifting feeling of not having to care about anything, because whatever you do will be awesome? And all that without any kind of drugs or genital stimulation? That’s the zone, man. Why is it important? Because it’s your truest nature as an artist. To create is to be in the zone.
Get in the zone – creative abandon
To ease yourself into this creative state, you of course need to let all those everyday worries go. But even creative worries, like “how am I gonna play this” or “shit, I haven’t practiced this enough”. And while we’re at it, what’s with this stuff about wanting to play anything you’ve practiced before anyway?! There’s not much creativity in reciting something note for note that you’ve previously learned. Note that I wrote “note for note” for a reason. No, not because I wanted to put the word “note” three times in that sentence. It was because when you’re in the zone, you actually do recall things from your memory; things you’ve learned before. The difference between this kind of creative memory recall and the above mentioned perfect reproduction is, that in the former one, you rearrange what you’ve learned. In a highly creative manner. Hopefully. So where was I. Ahh right; to do this, you have to let shit go (sometimes literally, because them bowels need a day off, too). It’s a state of mind without judgment, anxiety and, quite importantly, planning!
You plan, you lose
Why’s that? Because planning ahead kills the immediacy. It kills the spur-of-the-moment, if you will. And when I write that it kills those, I mean, you fall out of this very peculiar state of mind. Ever worried about having to come up with a song? Putting down new lyrics or writing the music of a new tune? Well, my friend, that worry is what prevents you from coming up with the song. Also from writing a good one, if you did manage to write one at least. A real good song. Because you start thinking ahead with your conscious mind, that the song needs this or that certain idea in it. Or this or that certain chord progression, or melody line. So you end up with all of these lyrical and musical expectations. That’s planning. Not gonna do you any good.
You have the knowledge
Yup. Believe it. You already know a lot of crap. Probably a lot more than you need to write that damn tune. And another one. And a whole lot of others. Now that you have that knowledge, let it fly out of you, sort of. Without forcing it. Whatever comes out will work. Trust yourself. When you allow yourself to turn on this auto-pilot, a beautiful freedom emerges. I could say that in that moment, all the rules cease to exist, but that wouldn’t quite describe this creative state of mind. All the rules you have learned, all the knowledge you posses will still be there, but in a funny way. As I wrote above, when you create, you rearrange your knowledge, forming something new out of it. It’s a skill of deliberately not paying attention to whatever you’re trying to do. It’s focusing on not focusing, and enjoying it. Like a whacked out monkey that’s making love to a banana. I could write a lot of shit about right brain and left brain and all that hocus pocus, but it gets defined and redefined by scientists every decade. Yet if you learn not to struggle and judge while you create, it’ll always remain a powerful skill of yours as an artist. Probably the most powerful one. Were you in the zone today?