In today’s fast-paced society, it’s hard enough to juggle all of the aspects of our daily lives while being a professional musician. Adding family life into the mix, especially with those that are seriously ill, can make things a little crazy-making.
I certainly don’t manage my time as well as I could, and I’ve let some things go that I probably shouldn’t have. I did learn to be more creative with my music business time when my daughter spent several weeks in and out of the hospital a few months back. Here are some things that helped me continue to work on music while camped out in a hospital room:
1. Be shameless with your rehearsal and writing time.
I’ve always been the person that sings at full-volume while driving. That’s some of my best practice and song-writing time. I expanded that to pretty much anytime I was alone; walking to and from the hospital cafeteria, in the shower, sitting in the radiology department. You don’t have to sing at the top of your lungs all of the time to be productive. Soft humming is enough to work out melodies and harmony parts.
2. Use what you have at hand.
We all have our favorite places and media for songwriting, but in difficult situations, you may need to try new things. Substitute your pad and paper for your iPad or cell phone voice recorder, napkins, credit card receipts, or whatever you have at hand. It may not be ideal, but most likely, neither is the situation you’re in.
3. Change your instrument of choice.
Hospital rooms aren’t the perfect place to bring your electric keyboards. I probably could have brought my mini-guitar, but space was at a premium and sound carries more than you think in hospitals. I found different apps for my cell phone and iPad that simulated keyboards, guitars, etc, and used my ear buds. While my daughter was sleeping or gone for tests, I worked on songs.
4. Ask for help if you need it.
Months before my daughter’s illness, we’d planned to film a music video in Louisiana. When it became clear that this wasn’t going to be a quick-fix situation, with my daughter’s permission, I emailed or called the musicians that were involved in the project. They were already going to be traveling to Louisiana for the filming, but we had to change their accommodations. I am so grateful for how flexible everyone was, both with hotel arrangements and with diving into our family life. Kira Small brought homemade cookies to share with everyone (they were delicious!), Solveig Whittle and Jana Pochop pitched in with meal preparation and clean-up, and Susan Gibson was beyond kind to my great-nephew when he followed her around most of the day to help her with her dogs. Glen Pangle was also enormously kind to the same great-nephew, engaging him in an ongoing bubble gun war that spread throughout the shoot and all across my family’s mostly-rural property. The video shoot may not have happened (it wasn’t life or death, after all, and I would have cancelled it if my daughter hadn’t been improving), or it could have been a strictly business, “hurry and get it done” affair, but we turned it into a weekend-long hangout with friends. It was an incredibly fun experience. I wouldn’t advise asking for help if you can manage on your own, though. Most people are happy to help if they can, but they’re human, too, and can get worn out if you’re asking for help frequently.
I hope you never need to use these suggestions, but if you do, I hope they help you. If you have any suggestions or experiences you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you.