How Making Your Bed Every Morning Can Help You To Write Awesome Metal Songs
About a year and a half ago, my bedroom was what some would politely refer to as “a flaming shit sandwich.”
Let me paint the scene:
Damp bath towels were CONSTANTLY draped around my chair and bed, slowly cultivating colonies of bacteria while they waited for me to reuse them, and EACH DAY I would smell my way through a pile of clothes on the floor to figure out what I was gonna wear; I once discovered a large dead beetle/roach/satanic creature in one of my book boxes that I’d apparently been housing for years. Besides my guitar and my music gear neatly organized on the side of the room, things were bad.
Not only was my room quite literally a hazard to my health, but it was beginning to affect my mental well-being and every other aspect of my life. I began to THINK sloppy, WORK sloppy, and BE sloppy. I even began to start drooling out of the side of my mouth (okay, not really, but I might as well have.).
Then suddenly… it happened.
One morning, for some insignificant reason, at an unimportant time, in an unmemorable place, I had a bone-chilling realization that I needed to make a change before this lifestyle would kill me.
The thing is, when you’ve put off cleaning to the point where everywhere you look is a nightmare, the task of reorganizing your surroundings becomes extremely daunting. At this stage the process of cleaning up is most always short-lived and ineffective. So instead of tackling it all at once, I decided to give myself one very simple, attainable goal and wrote it out on a whiteboard:
Make My Bed For 30 Days Straight
What ended up happening is that my daily habit of making my bed led to me wiping down all of my furniture surfaces and reorganizing my belongings, which naturally snowballed into me also throwing unneeded items away. One thing led to another, and at the end of the 30 days, I had myself a significantly more organized room and mind. I was stoked.
I thought to myself, “What if I apply the concept of giving myself a 30-day challenge to my goal of finishing the album that I’ve been writing?” Up until this point, I had been working on the Cyborg Octopus album for two and a half years with very minimal results. Like the previous state of my room, my lack of self-discipline was strongly impeding my ability to see the project through. I had some awesome songs I was extremely proud of, but for every hit I had three forgettable ones. Not to mention, I had about a dozen half-baked ideas floating around my head that just never seemed to go anywhere. Although music and my band were everything to me, I just felt hopeless in this area.
So I did just that! I gave myself another 30-day challenge, this time with the goal of working every single day to complete the remaining half of the album. In the following month, I underwent one of the most transformative and empowering experiences of my life.
I finished the album.
I had finished the shit outta that album.
What’s more, I did it in just 30 days while I had spent the previous two and a half years writing the first half. Metal media outlets that I had looked up to and respected were lauding it as an “album of the year,” “a landmark release,” and a “record to turn the world of metal on its head.” This was without a doubt my greatest musical accomplishment and I had definitively “made my mark.”
Me? A random guy with no understanding of music theory? A guy who’s never written an album before in his life? A guy who practices guitar maybe two hours a month? How could this happen?
Let me explain what transpired:
The daily repetition of attacking songwriting for 30 consecutive days forced me to think critically about my song writing process and begin to slowly identify and remove mental barriers that hindered my productivity. It helped me systematically develop methods for attacking songwriting and solve problems I had. It pretty much made me logic the shit out of it.
Let me explain just some of the key songwriting epiphanies I had during these transformative 30 days.
1. Waiting for inspiration to strike before you write is just going to keep you waiting forever.
Many people believe that an artist should first be inspired, then proceed to write, but this process helped me learn that it should be the opposite. I discovered that writing first actually CREATES inspiration, which in turn prompts you to write more. I can’t count the amount of times I started writing with a creatively drained mind but wound up coming up with something I really liked. Once I picked up momentum, it was a lot easier to get the ball rolling and take this developing song idea in some type of direction.
2. Crappy writing days are inevitable and expected. What matters is how you deal with them.
Prior to the 30-day challenge, any time I had unproductive writing sessions I would get discouraged and begin to question my abilities as a writer. I would wonder whether or not I’d run out of ideas or if I had simply gotten lucky the other times I wrote.
But during the challenge the patterns of ups and downs became really obvious. As a result, I began to trust in the process and realize that bad days are just one day closer to the good ones. Keep on trying and never let your standards drop.
3. Always write outside of your comfort zone.
If you write within similar parameters all the time, things will get predictable and boring. The less familiar I was with the territory of writing I was exploring, the more excited I was for the end result. The more excited I was for the end result, the easier it was to invest myself in the writing process. The more I invested myself in the writing process, the better it came out. It was a positive cycle that would feed into itself and increase my motivation/drive.
Because of these realizations (among others) I was able to pull off what I theoretically knew was possible but never believed would happen. Did those 30 days suck? Yes. Did I write almost an album’s worth of unused material? Yes. Did I have self-doubt? Yes. But was it worth it? Hell yes.
For you musicians out there reading this, I think we can all agree: songwriting can be extremely challenging. It can also feel difficult to track your progress, as some songs require minimal input to be awesome while others are a headache to create and just as much of a headache to listen to.
My hope is that my story and insights are able to give you some guidance and provide you with some realizations about the way you approach composition. Maybe it’ll inspire you to undergo a 30-day songwriting challenge yourself to see where it takes you. Just remember that it boils down to one thing: taking systematic action.
And for God’s sake, make sure your room is clean.
Wanna know some of the other songwriting hacks I learned that were game changers? I’ve created a series of videos just for you that provide answers to many of the most common questions such as: “How The @#$% Do I Get Over Writer’s Block?!,” “How To Tell If Your Songs Suck,” and more. Check them out below.