Five years ago, things with SPACESHIPS had slowed down for a few months. Our drummer was working 70 hour weeks and our bassist was preparing to get married.
And then there was me, with nothing extra going on and all these musical ideas that I couldn’t share with anyone.
So I wrote a solo album.
But five years later, it still hasn’t been released. I’ve played those songs live a number of times. Sometimes I’ve even played through the entire album. I’ve even come up with a name (NTVTY) and made some social media pages! But only one song has been recorded—and it’s not even finished.
If you’re reading this, I’m sure that story sounds all too familiar. Creatives are infamous for their tendency to start a thousand projects before they’ve even finished one. We have all of these dreams and aspirations, but following through with those projects is another story.
But why? What’s holding us back? Let me try to answer that by looking at the excuses I’ve told myself about why this solo record still isn’t finished and see what kinds of lessons we can learn.
“I Don’t Have Time”
As you probably know, NTVTY isn’t my only musical project. Between my main project SPACESHIPS, my ska project Dad Jokes, and the few other side projects I’ve started with various other friends, my solo stuff often takes a back seat.
Then there’s my work, my relationships, and various hobbies. Once I’ve made my schedule for the day, there’s not really time left over to record.
But here’s the truth: I really could find the time if I made the time for it. Instead, I let that time go to video games and Netflix and scrolling through my endless social feeds. If I set aside just half an hour each day to record, my album would be finished before I knew it.
What other things are you letting take time away from your projects? How intentional are you about making time for your projects? What time-wasters can you give up to spend time on your projects instead?
“Preparation Takes Too Long”
Every once in a while, the bug to record will bite me, but then I’ll start thinking about everything I need to do to make that happen.
I need to plug in my recording interface, set up microphones, clean up the music room a little bit…I should probably restring my guitar before recording too. Actually, I think I left my guitar at the church…
I’ll convince myself that that’s more than I want to deal with just to record part of a song, so I’ll do something else instead.
In reality though, it doesn’t really take that long to get ready. It might take ten minutes to get to a point that I’m ready to hit record (if I remembered to bring my guitar home, that is). But that ten minutes can feel like a huge hurdle.
But if I—again—actually make the time for it, then it’s nothing at all. Last week when Michelle and I were working on getting our podcast ready for broadcast, we started thinking about a theme song. I had a rough idea, so I went into my practice room and picked up my guitar.
Two hours later I had written and recorded a theme song from scratch. Because I made the intentional time for it in my schedule.
What obstacles keep you from picking up your project? Are your tools buried in a closet? Do you need to buy some supplies? What can you do to batch your prep time so you can get right to work?
“It Doesn’t Really Matter”
The biggest difference between NTVTY and the rest of my projects is that I’m the only one here. In all of my other bands, other people depend on me to pull my weight to book shows, write songs, and practice my parts. If I don’t do those things, I let them down.
But I can let myself down pretty easily. It’s really easy to tell myself that I’m too busy to make time for my solo project—I understand, and I’d rather slack off too. It’s not like I’m disappointing anyone else by ignoring it.
Here’s the thing though: on the rare occasion that I do play a solo set, I always get a ton of comments from people about how much they can relate to the songs. In fact, I think I get more feedback after a NTVTY show than any of my other bands.
These songs matter. Something about these songs hit people in a way that my other songs don’t. And if they matter enough to the people listening, then it should matter to me.
And if it matters to me, I need to make the time to finish it.
In what ways have you diminished the importance of your projects? How would you act differently if you were convinced of their importance? Who might need to have your art in their lives?
We can talk all day about our excuses for ignoring our creative projects, but it’s not going to mean a thing unless we get off our asses and do something about it.
So here’s the challenge…
This week, spend at least one hour of intentional time on a project that you’ve been putting off.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to finish anything. You just have to make progress. And I’m not exempt—I even remembered to bring my acoustic guitar home from the church today!
Do that, and let us know what you end up doing!