Film composer, screenwriter, playwright, and fellow Stage 32 community member, Shanika Freeman, shares knowledge gained from a 30-day composing challenge.
I invite all of Stage 32 to join me in starting your own personal 30-day creative challenge! Screenwriters: try to write for one hour every day! Actors: spend an hour practicing self-tapes and reading plays! Producers: practice your elevator pitches every day! No matter what your creative entertainment interests are, I challenge you to spend one hour a day practicing your craft.
What are you going to do for 30 days? Join the conversation and share your ideas and inspirations in the comments below!
Back in October, I sat in my chair and started a journey that really put a lot of things perspective. It was an adventure I never really thought much about.
I love music - it’s in my blood. So, when I stumbled on the 21 Days of VGM challenge a while ago, I thought “Oh, I got this.” Making music every day isn’t so bad. Easy. However, I got a rude awakening. It seems simple right? Sit down, get some notation paper or open your DAW and make about 16 bars of music every day and to be honest, it was such an easy experience the first week. I was inspired and ready to go. Then, work got in the way or writer’s block crept in. I started getting frustrated and slacking off. I had to take a step back and really get to the meat of things. This challenge has helped me grow so much and I want to share with you the lessons I’ve learned.
Oh man, this challenge tested my skills in time management. Between work, classes, Japanese (more on that later) and my own personal business, it was a bit hard to juggle and put time into my daily compositions. I actually started bullet journaling more seriously because of this challenge. By having a specific timeslot or even sketching a song on the go, I really started to double down and accomplish much more than what I thought I could. It even seeped through into my personal life. A good rule of thumb to cut down on procrastination is to categorize your tasks. If it would take you 10 minutes or less to do a certain task, don’t put it off. Do what you can now to make room for the future. Making music every single day forced me to prioritize the things that will help me reach my goals faster and more efficiently. I weighed my options - Could I binge a season of my favorite show on Netflix? Sure, but at that time, I could’ve completed multiple tracks and film/edit videos for my channel. Later on, when the important tasks are done, Netflix and other entertainments will still be there.
We all have a comfort zone. We tend to stick to a certain menu option and never truly stray too far away from home base. I was the same, - and at times I still am. However, participating in this challenge forced me to jump out of my comfort zone and explore a broader style. Now, don’t get me wrong, my music was always eclectic. From mixing hip hop with orchestral or diving into EDM or Country - I’ve always been passionate about fusing genres and style. But my “go-to” was always dark atmospheric themes. It’s something I love to create and excel at. Throughout this challenge, I wanted to intentionally steer away from my usual dark style. Now, there were days where I got so frustrated that the Celtic piece I wanted to work on wasn’t going as plan and so I just copped out and went back to my basics but I kept at it because of the benefits outweighed every doubt in my head. Not only does making tracks in numerous styles and genres help my portfolio but my personal style and confidence as a composer. It taught me more about arrangement, design, structure, and theory to name a few. Exploring my style and sharing it with the world also placed me in front of people I would have never crossed paths with otherwise.
Don’t be afraid to step out and take risks. Allow yourself to explore and be a little bad at something that is completely new to you.
Which brings me to my third and final point. Learn to let go. With anything you do, there will more than likely be that little voice in your head that doubts. Those little “What ifs…” and that imposter syndrome we tend to feel. Those things are bound to happen to us creators, but the key to overcoming that is to simply let go. Alright, I know it isn’t “easy” but with a little guidance and truly taking it step by step you can quiet down that voice in your head. We put so much pressure on ourselves and our work that we lose the passion that we had. Our outlet becomes a chore that causes burnout and creative blocks.
During my second week of writing music every day, I started to put so much pressure on getting it right. I wanted every track to sound professionally mixed and brilliantly arranged. I started to hate almost every piece I did. I would start and delete and start over again which in turn killed time, motivation, creativity and style. After many infuriating nights staying up til 3:00 am trying to compose the “perfect” piece I just said forget it and just made whatever came to mind. It was crap but I had so much fun creating it. The thing is, I wasn’t going to release it to the public or put it in my portfolio. This was for fun - to prove to myself that I could create for 21+ days. It was to improve my creativity and myself as an artist and person. I realized that all of my frustrations were my own insecurities, anxiety, and ego. Once you get rid of that - or at least a bit of it, things kind of start to fall in place. Letting go and being vulnerable is scary but it is something that needs to happen in order to really explore your artistry.
Taking on this challenge changed not only my creative drive but my self-esteem and my outlook. It was nerve-racking but brilliant and it was something I had to do if I wanted to move forward. I hope that you all can also take up a challenge whatever it may be.
I am a film composer and screenwriter based in Baltimore, Maryland. I have scored animated, feature and short films along with various games. Recently, I have worked with animator and producer, Dan Ekis on his science fiction film GREY ISLAND as well as director and writer, Harry Owens on IN MADNESS which was the official selection of the Pan Afro Film Festival and previewed at the Los Angeles International Film Festival. Most recently, I was featured in the BESTSELLER "IT'S SIMPLY FILMMAKING" by author CALI GILBERT, which showcases women in film and tv. I am currently writing SOVEREIGN, an hour-long pilot crime drama. It features a women-led cast that digs deep into the workings of the law and citizens. My goal is to impact and inspire people from all walks of life. I hope to connect with producers, directors and other creatives.
Let's hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Got an idea for a post? Or have you collaborated with Stage 32 members to create a project? We'd love to hear about it. Email Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's get your post published!
Please help support your fellow Stage 32ers by sharing this on social. Check out the social media buttons at the top to share on Instagram @stage32online Twitter @stage32 Facebook @stage32 and LinkedIn @stage-32
|What The H*ll is a Scriptment?|
|Why Literary Managers are the Screenwriters Secret Networking Weapon|