I can’t write a song anymore.

When I was a waiter shortly after leaving school I would sit in my apartment on the mattress that had no frame, surrounded by notebooks and play my guitar until I couldn’t stay awake any more. Occasionally I would turn on the computer, download a few new songs, record a rough live take and be done with it.

Then I got a mac. I’m not saying it’s the Macbook’s fault, I’m saying it was the Macbook, the iPhone, the proliferation of tech I surrounded myself with. I was disconnected from a pen and a notebook and I was given any tool I could imagine to create the greatest music ever known. The problem was, it was all too much. The idea that I had unlimited freedom and a billion combinations on each variable caused this ADHD kid to never write another song. Until I heard someone say

What do you get when you give a fool a computer? A more powerful fool.

I had become a fool with a computer. There’s a magic in a pencil. There’s a majesty in a notebook. I had written for 20 years in notebooks. Literally piles and piles of them. Under my bed is a disaster of half written and horribly written and possibly Grammy award winning songs. I once had an entire bookshelf dedicated to these notebooks.

So what happened?

Was I suddenly uninspired? Tragically no. I was still sitting down and playing new music almost daily and singing debatably beautifully enchanting melodies that were lost to the walls of a bedroom, or bathroom, I really love the acoustics in a bathroom. Somewhere down the road I realized that if I turned on the phone or started up Logic on the laptop, I was going to lose to the machine. So I never recorded anything. I didn’t even know how to write things down anymore.

Enter tUnE-yArDs: BiRd- BrAiNs;

I read this story and I’m pretty sure this is a badly skewed view that fit my mindset at the time but this woman was feeling much like me, technology, as beautiful as it was, had been creating the largest obstacle in the creative process. Unlike me, she came up with a solution. She set up walls. She setup up boundaries in the process that said, I can only use this tool, a sony voice recorder, and a shareware software for recording. She had to record loops and dump them in, she had to line everything up by hand and it shows. She did an amazing job and the results are impressive. I admire that she was able to accomplish so much by limiting herself. I find as an artist myself that having to engineer a solution sometimes creates the most beautiful pieces. Maybe that’s why so many sophomore albums fail, when you have no obstacles, unlimited funds, and anything you need to make a record, you can’t make the same record because there are no limitations.

So limit yourself. Set rules, and boundaries, test your ingenuity in working within those confines.

Here’s a challenge for you.


Whatever your medium, audio or visual come up with a set of rules and let me know what they are and what the results are. Examples may be, I’m a musician, in my next recording I can only use kick drum samples for drums. I can do whatever I want to the kick, but that’s all I’ve got. If you’re visual, force yourself to draw a city, one house at a time on a 3″ x 5″ notecard and put them all together at the end. You can’t use either of these examples in your work, that’s cheating. You can do it. I’ll post a few of the more inspired volumes here.

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