Space Junk – Clearing Obstacles to Find Your Creative Flow

To cull is to pick, to select, reduce the population of a group, or obtain from a variety of sources. At first, we build a palette of sounds, then we experiment with different combinations. After seeing what sticks, we must also abandon and destroy ideas and attempts that aren’t working. We cut our losses and move on. This initial process of generating ideas through synthesis and trial and error creates debris that builds up over time. We often forget to carve out time for clearing the debris, and eventually, this plaque clogs up the arteries of your creative flow. You’ll need to stop a session to fix an instrument, reinstall a plugin, or free up space on your hard drive. The first step to fixing this flow is to identify the junk. This debris is either creative, physical, or digital.

Creative debris:
– Unused lyrics – lines that aren’t telling a story or adding perspective
– Harmonies, doubles, melodies, synth layers that aren’t catchy or contributing to the song and might actually be masking other sounds
– Samples that aren’t serving a purpose
– Any layer that is taking away bandwidth but not adding to the song. Mute and see what happens.
– Songs in your set that aren’t reacting or serving the performance. Swap them out or revise the arrangement

Digital debris:

– Samples you never use (mute and see if you miss them)
– Presets you never used, or presets that are poorly defined and don’t have a clear purpose (Retitle – try including author, category, purpose, date: MP_EQ_Hipass_101318.adg)
– Overlapping tails of virtual instruments (freeze, flatten, and shape them w/ volume automation)
– Apps & plugins you never use (uninstall)
– Test or junk sessions (delete or archive)
– File duplicates, contact duplicates (delete or update – use time stamping imports w/ Dropbox, add richer data into contacts like how you met them)
– Poorly named files (update – P01117823.jpg vs Alaska_2018_Sessionview_092818)
– Unused folders (delete)
– Alias shortcuts pointing to the wrong path (update)
– Files stored locally that only need to be in the cloud (use a feature like Dropbox’s selective-sync and set your defaults properly)
– Emails that bounce (move to a sub-list or remove entirely)
– Caches and cookies (delete)
– Recurring subscriptions you don’t need (unsubscribe)
– 3rd party plugins and extensions (uncheck them in your browser)

Physical debris:
– Printed manuals that are available in PDF form (store in the cloud)
– Cardboard shipping boxes (recycle and buy again if needed)
– Paper documents (scan and shred)
– Bad cables (replace)
– Dead batteries (replace)
– Incompatible, slow, or unreliable gear (upgrade or replace)
– Old computers (upgrade or replace)
– Corrupted drives (wipe or replace)
– Instruments and outboard gear that you don’t love or were too hard to learn (sell/donate/store)
– Anything in your field of vision or within an arm’s reach that isn’t helping you do your best work (sell/store)
– Even something as small and innocent as a dried up pen or broken pencil (replace)

Consider assigning a specific day each month to really focus on clearing out the junk. Call it maintenance Mondays and do it monthly. Batching these tasks makes it more fun, but don’t get too carried away that you hide from your work! The key goal is making sure every item in your studio serves a purpose – make sure nothing is a “just in case” item. You can always store valuable instruments if you think you might want them later. Print out this list and have at it!

– Store it
– Back it up
– Archive it
– Wipe it (computers, drives)
– Sell it
– Replace it
– Donate it
– Reycle it
– Delete/trash it/uninstall it

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One thought on “Space Junk – Clearing Obstacles to Find Your Creative Flow

  1. Brilliant! I love this because I do it often. I like the idea of setting a day once a month to go through it all. I definitely use it as an excuse to hide form work at times. But sometimes it’s necessary when things get out of hand and I’m drowning in a messy work atmosphere.

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