What do you do to improve your craft? Most people practice that craft and that’s the way they experience growth. This is conventional and should be the cornerstone for development. Practicing a craft will eventually lead to mastery. I love the “wax on-wax off” scene in Karate kid because it epitomises unconventional growth. Daniel learns the basics through the otherwise mundane task of waxing a car. He does one task to become good at another. The brain is very complex and learning one skill often translates into picking up another skill easily.
While this scene from Karate kid might seem far-fetched, great artists do this too. Ballet dancers can take hip hop classes to loosen up and hip hop dancers can take ballet to sort out posture and improve discipline. As musicians, we can do tasks that aren’t related to our craft to improve our craft. Have you ever considered binge listening to a genre you never listen to? How about taking up a poetry class or reading literature to improve your writing? How about meditating an hour once or twice a week to listen to different sounds in nature so that you train your ears to pick sounds apart faster? I remember watching a television program where this guy wanted to learn how to become an emcee. His mentor took him to a grocery store and got him to rap about the things he saw in the shop as he walked past them. Sure, the show was short and he was very average, but had he practiced that day in and day out for a year with that same guidance he’d probably have become really good.
The plus side to growing unconventionally is that you develop your own style which has become more important as this industry has become saturated. No offence to people who go to school to learn music, but you learn things through the eyes of your teacher. This has many advantages in that you learn in a structured manner and you can quantify how much you know by which course you’re doing, but the drawback is that if you get extra creative during an assignment and the teacher doesn’t follow your vision then you fail and you’re discouraged. Take it upon yourself to train unconventionally even if you are in a formalised environment like a school. Challenge yourself to write short stories if you’re a rapper or singer. Challenge yourself to incorporate every day sounds into your music. You will have a whole new appreciation for your craft and you’ll grow in ways that others will have difficulty replicating.
I know this concept can be seen as silly when you consider you still need to hustle studio time and try and get features, but if you take time to take this concept seriously, it may speed up career development. You are a creative being so learn like one.