Indie Guest Post: Blank Space by Kat Quinn
This is the first in a series of guest post essays by New York City-based indie pop singer, Kat Quinn.
You may recognize Kat Quinn from Late Night With Jimmy Fallon where she was pulled from the audience to join the “Battle of The Instant Songwriters.” Given a song title and less than an hour to write it, Quinn performed her original, “Clouds Are People Too,” live on Late Night, gaining fans nationwide.
After moving to New York in the summer of 2011, Quinn teamed up with Peter Calo (Carly Simon) to record her debut EP, Exhale. Quickly gaining momentum, Adam Rhodes (Bon Iver) came on board to produce the follow up record, Kind of Brave, released in December of 2013.
Please sit back and enjoy…. Blank Space by Kat Quinn:
I got a blank space baby.. and I’ll _____________ (insert awesome creative project here).
What are you going to do with your blank space?
For me, the hardest part is deciding which creative outlet I want to pursue. I am a songwriter. It is my number one pursuit, but recently other forms of writing have been pulling at me, and I’m having trouble focusing and finishing one project before moving on to the next. There is TOO MUCH ART TO CREATE. So I create nothing.
Seems backwards, right? If you create nothing, it should be because you have nothing to create. Not because you have too much to create.
So, how do you get yourself to finish a project? (I’m seriously asking you.. I still don’t know) But I can tell you what I’ve learned does not work for me, and what I am currently experimenting with.
Every book I have read on creativity gently suggests that schedules and routines are helpful for creativity. (And by “gently suggests that schedules and routines are helpful,” I mean they scream at you to “MAKE THAT FREAKIN’ SCHEDULE OR YOU WILL NEVER DO ANYTHING EVER!!!” using only lowercase letters) So I got it. I made the freakin’ schedule. And you know what? It didn’t go well. Creativity schedules are not easy to keep. Especially for those of us who have multiple creative outlets going at once. It always seemed that when I scheduled time to write a story, a song would come pouring out. Or vise versa. Do I stop that creative flow to go work on the story because I arbitrarily decided that 3:00pm on Tuesday was when I should be working on that story? No. But by following every creative impulse, I missed all my self-imposed deadlines, and struggled to finished anything.
I realized that what I needed was a change in vocabulary and a schedule that allowed for more flexibility.
Step 1: Work toward goals, not against deadlines.
Deadlines hinder creativity. Goals inspire creativity.
You know what deadlines inspire? Stress, resentment, rushed work, mediocrity… Okay, maybe in certain situations, they are necessary, but in your creative life, I think you can do without them. Even the word is ugly. Deadline. I learned it has its roots in Civil War prisons, when (often imaginary) lines were drawn around the camps, and prisoners were not allowed to cross. If they did cross, they would be shot dead by the guard on patrol. Does that sounds like a nice environment for creating something beautiful? Someone will shoot you dead if your project pushes past that imaginary line? Seems a bit extreme. Let’s eliminate the word from our vocabularies right now.
For me, everything changed when I replaced the word “deadline” with the word “goal.” Suddenly this thing I HAD to get done by a certain time (STRESS STRESS STRESS), became this thing that I WANTED to get done. Maybe I’m just someone who who falls for a placebo, but the mental switch was just what I needed.
Step Two: Create a more flexible schedule.
I no longer plan which projects I will do at specific times. Keeping in mind step one, I now create weekly goals. I alot creativity time, in which I work on whatever creative project is calling me. If nothing is calling me, I consult my goal schedule and plug away diligently. The schedule is good for keeping me creating when I don’t feel creative.
I’m sure with more experimentation, I’ll come up with steps three through one hundred, but right now, I’m still at a two-step process. So try it out! Make goals, make a flexible schedule, and most importantly, make art.