Expand And Contract


I was 26 years old and living in Berkeley with Ivory, my girlfriend at the time. 

I didn’t have kids, I was unemployed (I was making my living entering online video contests) and I had no responsibilities beyond making sure the dishes got done and my part of the rent got paid.

Back then, I could literally spend all day on a song and video. I’d drive up to Tilden park and shoot elaborate scenes in the woods. I’d experiment with strange sounds in the computer programs I was using (at the time, it was Reason. These days I use Logic. I’m not kidding). I’d write 15 verses to a song, just to see if I could.


But even in that (admittedly rose tinted by memory) songwriter’s utopia, there were still plenty of days where due to travel, appointments, or commitments to friends, I simply did not have a lot of time to create my song for the day.

So. Here’s one of the most important and easily actionable lessons I’ve learned from doing this: 

Expand and contract the amount of time you give yourself to create, based on what you have to do on a given day. 

If you’ve got a long, lazy Sunday ahead of you, by all means, spend as much time as you can crafting something you’re proud of.

But if you’ve got just twenty minutes between picking up the kids from school and starting dinner (an example directly from my life), then take out your phone and spend ten of those minutes singing an a capella song that you just make up on the spot. You don’t need to feel bad about it. You never know what might come from doing this. It might turn out to be complete garbage, but there very well may also be the spark of something beautiful there.

Making something, anything, is always better than making nothing, because at least then you have something to push up against.

This is the first post out of 31 blog posts I’m making for #jamuary. I’ve been writing a song a day for 10 years.

You can pre-order my latest album I Used To Love My Body on Bandcamp.

Jonathan MannComment