Tom Bowlus, Editor-in-Chief
The other day, while exchanging pleasantries with a friend, she asked, “How’s it going?” I responded with my typical, “Busy, but good,” then added, “I just need more hours in a day.” She then corrected me with, “More inspired hours; we all need more inspired hours in a day.” You know, I am not sure I have heard that one, before. I’d heard the reference to “more productive hours,” of course, but not the “inspired hours” angle. The more I think about it, though, the more I like it.
More hours sounds great. More hours where you are (at least somewhat) productive sounds even better. But inspired hours are where’s it’s at. Think about all the really cool, hip and meaningful things you have done in your life. Have you ever looked back and said, “Man, I put a lot of productive hours in to achieve that result!”? How about, “Man, that was inspired!”? In my experience, quality beats quantity, every time. What exactly does it mean to be “inspired?” Google defines inspiration as, “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.” Not a bad start, but there’s more to it.
Brain chemistry undoubtedly has a profound effect upon our behavior, including productivity and inspiration. Several neurochemicals have been linked with stimulating creativity and inspiration, namely noradrenaline (one of the so-called “fight-or-flight” hormones), dopamine (which, interestingly, gets trapped in tense muscles, to be released by exercise and/or relaxation; it may also be released in anticipation of reward or pleasure), phenethylamine (which is released when we are relaxing, having fun, or feeling good about ourselves – and is also, not surprisingly found in dark chocolate!) and serotonin (which plays a big role in determining our mood, and which can make us obsessive and/or compulsive).
Patterns of behavior can also have a major impact on our number of inspired hours per day, or the lack thereof. In fact, these patterns can be self-fulfilling, to a large extent. If you keep doing things which are not very inspiring, your behavior and your brain chemistry will conspire to try and keep you from ever being inspired enough to break free. While that sounds kind of bleak, we can also see where positive behavior (like exercise, relation, or rewarding ourselves with dark chocolate) can help reinforce positive, inspired behavior.
Music can inspire us. That should come as no surprise. But what happens when you are supposed to be the one making/writing the music, but you just aren’t feeling inspired? David Ellefson and Emma Anzai discuss this in David’s Metal on Metal interview of Emma on page XX. [Spoiler alert: try breaking up your routines, or pick up a different instrument.] Taken a bit further, why not try playing a different style of music, or grab a plectrum (or set it down, as the case may be)? There are lots of ways to break out repetitive patterns, and chances are, your brain chemistry will reward you, if you do.
We all deserve to be inspired. If your career, your circle of friends, or your environment do not inspire you, then perhaps it’s a time for reflection on just what you’re doing, who you’re doing it with, and where you’re doing it. But don’t leave self-reflection out of the equation. When viewed from a different perspective, that career, those friends, and your locale might be pretty darned cool. As usual, these same thoughts can be applied to your gig, your bandmates, your instrument, your playing style…
The bottom line is to look out for those self-perpetuating negative patterns of behavior which sap your inspiration and your creativity. Breaking patterns might just mean getting out of Dodge and forging a new path. Or it might mean playing with a pick. You can do it. You deserve it. Claim those inspired hours in every day.
That’s how I see it.
Take care, Tom.