Make a plan – plans are worthless

making plans
The plan I fixed to my door. Written from the top down, to be walked from the bottom up.

I did a lot of travelling in the past months. And even though I had my guitar with me and played a lot, I kind of lost my thread in terms of making music and writing songs. Ever since I released The Trial last October I felt like in a dead-end and it showed in my music activities. This month I hit a new all-time low in terms of mood but luckily I quickly found the reason: Lack of music (everything negative in my life, essentially, always comes down to this.

So I needed a plan: How to get back into making and appreciating music.

I was very active last year. After releasing Blood and Souls in April I wrote half a dozen new songs, recorded and released The Trial, had lots of voice training and assimilated new techniques and styles. Still, I felt like not really moving forward. The reason: The things I want to sing, the things I write are still far out of reach for me. I only started singing about two years ago and there is still a lot of work in front of me. My vocal coach explains it like this: “We are still growing the wood and drawing plans for the instrument and at the same time you are already singing!” Imagine trying to use a piece of driftwood and a sheet of paper as a guitar.

That means I will have to be patient. But of course it does not mean I have to be silent and sit idle. I can already work with the voice I have, I can record and finish songs to keep me going.

So why have I not been doing that for the past six months? The answer is simple: I was distracted and I lost my way. I have all these song ideas lying around, a bucket full of great guitar riffs and wonderful melodies and I just keep getting caught up in between all these, doing everything and nothing.

In order to get out of these depths of distraction, I only need a simple thread, a plan of action that not only leads me away from where I am but towards a specific goal. This can be simple and it is. All I want to do is touch people through my music. To do that I need to release my songs. To do that I need to finish them. To do that I need to record them in a way that satisfies my standard as an artist. To do that I need to focus on the songs  that I can perform in the appropriate manner. And to do that I need to practice these songs and only these songs.

It is that simple. Write down what your goal is. That is the top. Always start at the top. Don’t just “go away from here” but “go to that place” instead. Be specific. Then think about what the next necessary thing is before you can reach that goal. And then the next. And then the next. And so on. It is important not to put nay obstacles in your way that are out of your control. There are none. There is always a way. For example I could just complain about the fact that I can’t find a singer to song my songs and thus can’t release them. But there is a simple solution: Learn how to sing yourself. It is always simple. Simple does not mean easy but at least it is in your control to reach your goal.

Now you have a plans – but plans are worthless

Plans are worthless. They rarely if ever survive reality. There is always something that turns out not be working as expected. Despite all the training and practicing I did not learn how to sing as well as I had hoped to in the given time. So what? Why even bother making a plan then?

Because it is the planning that is important. It is the making of plans that opens your eyes to the possibilities and problems that lie ahead of you. Planning as an activity keeps you thinking about your project and its challenges, keeps you active. If you keep planning you can always update your plan and make it a valuable tool, a guide through your project. No matter how good your plan appears to be, always keep questioning it. Maybe your goal changes slightly. Maybe an obstacle turns up, maybe an opportunity arises. Don’t stick to a static plan just because you made it a while ago. Just keep in mind what you really want and always think about what is necessary right now to make it happen. The one next step is what matters. Turn off all the background noise. Turn off Facebook and YouTube. Stop playing your old songs instead of writing new ones. Focus on the one song you want to finish next.

Of course, do something else from time to time. Enjoy music, enjoy just playing, enjoy life. But if you ever feel stuck in a place: Focus. Focus on where you really want to go and what you need to do to get there. But just as important are the things you stop doing: Everything that does not contribute to reaching your goal.

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