Mastering ‘The Zone’ & Achieving Your Creative Peak

Good art touches you; great art brings you back to the exact moment it was created. You can feel what the artist felt, what he saw, heard and how his worldview was. Art of the past is not more worthy because it’s ‘classy’, but because it paints the picture of how the world was at a now long gone time.

How does this all relate to NFTs and the mystical concept of the moment where time freezes and you are in ‘the zone?’  The simple answer is that if we genuinely want to make a valuable piece of art that defies time, we should master ourselves first and find how to be in ‘the zone’ constantly.

It’s true that inspiration hits at mysterious times, however, put yourself in my position as a session guitarist. When the recording red light is on, I have to close off all distractions and fears and push myself to be in ‘the zone.’ Tired or not, angry or chill, there’s always a way to do it, once you know what works for you.

Through this article, I want to share my thoughts and ways how to master creativity and hopefully create more meaningful art.

What is ‘The Zone?’

I find that “The Zone” for me, put in simple words, is that moment when you just do and don’t think.

Time seems to stop as you don’t think in terms of seconds, but only emotions and flow. Decisions are made in a split second and you just ‘know’ when something sounds right. The mind is an open sponge that sucks up everything from the environment, all the sounds, and images while responding through almost unconscious action.

It’s kind of as if you know what will happen and follow the steps to achieve your vision.

If you want to share your definition of ‘the zone,’ please comment on this tweet I post not long ago.

I believe timeless art is born out of that process and the highest peak of human performance is found in those ‘fleeting’ moments in time.

Even though everything sounds mystique and the common cliche of “inspiration hits at unexpected times” I believe getting in the zone it’s a skill that requires practice. It might just not be the kind of practice you are used to.

Practice, The Mind & The Zone

What I’m asking you to do plainly is trick your mind into its more creative state. We are most creative when we knock off the walls of thought and just do like a child would.

As with all skills you only get better at it by doing it. How I think it works, or at least what worked for me is tricking my brain to get creative is. There is no particular order, as it all depends on where you are on your journey. The keywords are feeling safe and letting go.

Get your chops up

The goal of practicing your craft is to be free of thinking about technique but just execute what you imagine flawlessly.

As you progress in your craft, you start to feel how much work you need before you can ‘master’ it. Not reaching some level of mastery that you think is appropriate will leave you thinking before executing, so getting in ‘the zone’ is immediately interrupted by thoughts on ‘ Oh, where is this chord?

Even though technology allows us nowadays to correct our mistakes, we won't be able to fix them before we make them. That’s why many producers use the quote “ Before Pro Tools, We Had Pros.’

This said, to be in your best creative shape, you just have to be good enough so that you have met your own self-expectation and can put your unique imagination into practice.

Surround yourself with people that make you uncomfortable

You should shape your environment, and only let it affect how you choose it. The best way to make sure you can trick your brain is to put it under stress.

We all have people that make us feel uneasy when we play. For some, it’s our parents, for others some big shot musicians.

I was (and still am slightly) uneasy when playing in front of 2 buddies of mine who have heard me play and learn guitar since I was 15. However hard I tried, I couldn’t play 100% in front of them and the bad news was they owned one of the best rehearsal spaces in town

Once I realized that I should get past that barrier I would insist on going to their rehearsal space each time I played with a band until I finally overcame the block.

After getting over that, my mind just thinks each time I play in a session, If I can play in front of my mom and those 2 buddies and feel ok, I’ll only feel pressure if David Gilmour walks in the room!

Learn how to take critiques from everyone

Once you can handle criticism in a non-egotistical way you are one step closer to not caring about others' opinions in a positive way.

When you’re the session guy, no matter how good you are, you’re going to get critiques from everyone in the room. You just learn to handle those and get your ego crushed to where it’s only useful as a motivator, not as an argument started

There’s a big difference in taking critiques, thinking about it, trying it, and then not caring than just saying ‘I don’t care what you think’ and getting offended. Accept that and accept that there are good and bad takes on art, just expressing your feelings is not enough if you intend to sell your work.

This reminds me of when I wrote my critique of the popular NFT community acronym WAGMI (we are all gonna make it) in my web3 analysis NAGMI- Not Everyone is Gonna Make, and That’s Fine.

It’s an interesting read if you, like me, are realistic on web3 and want to look back on how we dealt with other disruptive events of the past.

Break Your Patterns

It sounds funny and it is but just do the following once or twice per day. Start your craft, whatever it is, guitar, painting, or whatever, and just do everything wrong for 10 minutes. You’ll find it harder than it sounds.

What I mean is that if you improvise music using all the wrong notes, everything should sound as bad as you can. The idea behind it is to break all the possible patterns you have taught yourself and leave you open to new things.

For all of you that don't play instruments, nor sing,  but live by the life of ‘the sample,’ there’s still something special you can do, just go back in time and listen to different genres.

The point is not only to feel ‘the zone,’ but to create something extraordinary out of it, something you would have never thought of normally.

Recreate the feeling that makes you creative

Different people have different emotions or states of mind that push them to be creative. Before you think it I’ll say it, with this I don't mean drugs and not the typical ‘suffering gives you inspiration.’

Each and everyone is different on this topic and some might relate to meditation and other things I’m not qualified to talk about. For me personally, It works by focusing on one emotion and then translating it into music. The emotion that inspires me most to write is nostalgia and melancholy, focusing on those emotions is what usually gets me more ‘in the zone.’

The benefit of balancing your emotions doesn’t just lead to better art as you’ll see in the ‘weird’ example.

As everyone who has been in a Twitter space with me knows,I tend to play some guitar jams once in a while to release some tension and give everyone time to breathe. There’s a hidden reason for why I really do it sometimes though.

I have trained myself to control my emotions when I play guitar and get over the fear of judgment and mistakes. That’s the first step to entering the zone. Only those 2 minutes of first uncomfortable, then enjoyable improvising give me the confidence and balance to speak better in spaces.  

I take myself in the state of mind I want and can be creative in much more than music. Find your thing and always keep it close to you!

If I can’t play, there are a couple of musical pieces I listen to that balance me out emotionally and take me to my creative zone. If you’re curious about what I create when I’m in the zone, this is a good example.

Respond to what you listen/see/feel

Whenever I’m asked to record guitars for a song, it’s not me who decides what suits the song, it's the song that tells me that. Great musicians ‘Serve The Song.’

Whenever you read a book you start to feel that the characters take a life of their own and the author ‘has’ to make some decisions that are beyond him. The same thing applies to a piece of art and especially music.

The way I approach writing/recording a guitar solo for example is first to listen multiple times to the track and start singing in my terrible voice my ideas. I just respond to what the music tells me and then translate that into my instrument. The guitar is the last part of the whole process, the creativity happens before I even touch it, and when I do I’m confident and prepared to ‘just play’.

Being locked for 2 years at home  I realized I can’t affect my sounding, but I can affect how I react to them.  My collection of 'fleeting thoughts’ is my testimony of creating in the zone and challenging the circumstances

Learn/experience/feel new things

This relates to much more than practicing your craft and learning new songs. Your mind and body need all the nutrients to have you in your best creative state.

Boredom is the sign that your mind needs more stimulation. I find I make the best music when I have traveled for a few days and am detached from my usual routine. My chops might not be the best from lack of practice, but my spirit is at its peak.

Watching an inspiring performance, reading a new book and meeting new people should be in your regular ‘growth diet.’ We are artists, but first of all we are people, people do stuff and then get called artists by others. It’s ok to feel special, but not as special as to detach from the pack of healthy, happy people.

Stop heavy marketing and constant shilling periodically

This is only reserved to my NFT friends. Don’t you feel drained and stuck in the past after having talked about your art or others for hours every day?  It’s ok to do it, but I personally think it’s just better to show people, not tell.

The way I perceive growth and being continuously able to go into the zone is to let go of past creations and go to the new one. What is done is done, you can remix, remaster all you wish, but it’s done. Don’t talk about it as much as to affect your next creation.

Selling and creating are two very, very different processes. The fix to avoiding getting overwhelmed is to think of marketing as a mixture of a brand and artists, not only artists. ‘Artists’ take things emotionally and personally, business people just try and fail and detach themselves emotionally.

You don’t have to be either extreme, yet don’t take anything personally of what happens in the space and take pauses if you get overwhelmed.

How do you know if your creation is good?

If a piece of art I created moves me emotionally, it will ultimately resonate with other people that are similar to me. That is the golden rule I apply to everything I release in the world.

With everything I have created or minted if I feel happy and proud while continuously playing it, it’s enough to say I did a good job. You need that sense of pride and achievement to gain control over yourself and keep creating, almost at will. If you want to take your creation to the next step, reach out to professionals and ask for an honest opinion.

Above all, enjoy the process and good things will come!

If you want to know more about me you can check out some of my work and most importantly connect with me on Twitter for some occasion chatting.

If you want to support me, collecting any of my NFT work editions or 1/1 would help me with my goals of switching from an unknown behind-the-scenes session musician to an artist and paving the way for other working musicians in the blockchain.

Subscribe to Altin - The Working Guitarist
Receive the latest updates directly to your inbox.
This entry has been permanently stored onchain and signed by its creator.