By Sam Wilder
I was asked, “How do I get my musical passion back? I know what I want but it’s always being put on hold because of reality.” This is a really hard question to answer because it’s a struggle that musicians face everyday. I’m going to try to answer that question so here it goes…
So, where did your drive go?
Lost drive or passion can be caused by many things and it can affect both full-time and part-time musicians. Since I think both of these musician types have different reasons for feeling “burnt out”, I’ll tackle each separately.
Part-Time Musicians: The majority of musicians in the world have “day jobs”. There’s a few reasons for this. The music industry is very competitive, many musicians prefer the financial security of a day job, many musicians support families or have other financial obligations, etc. The reason many part-time musicians feel “burnt out” is because they deal with other things that take priority over music in their lives. They feel frustrated by their busy schedules and wish they had more time to devote to music. Also, some part-time musicians find it difficult to “turn-off” the stresses of their daily lives. This can be extremely frustrating since they may not have time to devote to music on a daily basis. The funny thing is, there are also many part-time musicians who are more “fulfilled” and “passionate” than full-time musicians. This is because they treat every gig or practice session like a sacred event. Since they are not affected by the pressures of paying the bills from music and daily gigging, they are truly grateful for the chance to practice and perform. They feel lucky to be able to support themselves and make music, so they are grateful for both their day-job and their music career. This is the perspective you need have in order avoid bringing your day-job frustration and resentment into your musical life. This can be hard to do especially when dealing with work pressures, sick or ailing family, etc. Basically you have to figure out how to mentally separate your daily stresses and your music career.
Full-Time Musicians: If you think that full-time musicians don’t get as “burnt out”, you’re wrong. It might seem like “the grass is greener” from a part timer’s perspective but full-time musicians have their own set of problems they deal with in order to keep their drive and passion alive. The biggest stresses that can affect full-time musicians are lack of money/job security and having to play mundane gigs in order to pay bills. Let’s talk about money first. Being a full-time freelancer is difficult work and it’s mentally challenging to deal with the stress of not having job security. If you stop hustling, you will lose work. If you get sick or injured, you will lose work. This is a lot of pressure and it can stifle your drive and passion. Also, this correlates with the other issue I mentioned, playing uninspiring gigs. In order to create some financial security, many musicians will play gigs that they don’t really like (but they pay the bills). If the majority of your schedule is filled with this type of work, you are in danger of burning out. These are very difficult problems to deal with, but perspective is still the key to keeping your drive and passion alive. Full-time musicians with tons of drive and passion don’t allow themselves to get creatively stagnant. They find the time to continually develop new skills in their music and they evolve. Just because you may have some regular uninspiring paying gigs, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do “creatively pleasing” work on the side. The bottom line is that you must find a way to stay fresh.
So, how do I get my drive and passion back?
OK, so here’s the part where you have to do all the work lol! Once again, finding creative energy and drive is really all about perspective. It’s in your head. Again, I’m going to break this up between part-time and full-time musicians because I feel that each group has slightly different problems (even though we’re all completely nuts).
Part-Time Musicians: First things first, don’t be jealous of full-time musicians because you must remember, “the grass always seems greener”. Be happy with what you have and try not to get frustrated with your daily non-musical life. Also, don’t blame anyone or anything for the state of your music career. This includes blaming your kids or wife for hampering your dreams or your boss for stressing you out. Once you learn to take all of the responsibility for the state of your music and lose the excuses, you’ll have a better chance at getting your drive back. Did you ever take notice of what you feel like when something good happens in your life? You feel positive, driven and motivated to take on the world. This is because you’re happy and you’re feeling empowered. But when you’re stressed and upset its the opposite. Your Mood = Your Drive. Adapt your mindset. There are many ways to do this but you have to find your form of healthy coping and stick to it to get your mojo back. If that doesn’t work, don’t feel weird about talking to someone. No man is an island.
Full-Time Musicians: The most important piece of advice I can give full-time musicians is to always remember why you got into music to begin with. If you forget about the passion that got you started as a musician, you’re finished. So why are some full-time musicians so burnt out? Well, like I said before, the pressure to pay your bills will often lead to “mundane” paying gigs. Another cause is jealousy and resentment towards “more successful” musicians. Musicians that have been doing it for a long time sometimes feel that they have paid their dues and deserve success more than others. They can also start to get bitter due to losing out on gigs. All of these things can easily destroy your drive and passion, making your music career a very boring routine. Again, the way around this is to be mentally strong and to change your perspective. Instead of being threatened by successful musicians, use their talent and passion to help spark yours. Also, embrace the changes in the industry and find a new niche for yourself. In the case that you’re playing too many gigs you dislike, make sure you also find time to play gigs that make you happy (regardless of the pay). Or start doing something that will help you in the future like learning how to mix or produce your own tracks. Learning a new musical skill or bettering yourself will give your uninspiring gigs a purpose. Think of it like mowing lawns in order to pay for college. You need to make money, but you shouldn’t be stagnant in your job. You should always think of these gigs as a way to help support yourself while you’re pursuing something better. It’s also important to note that you have to find a way to have fun and enjoy your “mundane” gigs. If you’re going through the motions, people will smell it a mile away and nobody wants to play with an uninspired musician. Change your perspective and enjoy what you already have. If you’re currently making your living playing music life isn’t so bad right? Now, be grateful, happy and driven.
All Musicians: The most important thing that both full-time and part-time musicians can do to avoid burnout is to continue evolving. This means practicing new things on your instrument, writing or learning new songs, learning music software, practicing your mixing skills, learning about licensing and the industry, etc. If you are actively taking time each day to further your craft your drive and passion will be fresh and intact. This is also where your discipline will come into play. You need to get into a routine of working on your craft every day, even if it’s only for a ½ hour. Depending on your daily grind this may mean waking up a little earlier or shifting around your schedule a little. You have to figure out how to make this sacrifice or you will get stale. Also, this needs to be dedicated music time; no phones, no TV, no web surfing, Facespace etc. The more uninterrupted music time you schedule daily, the more drive and passion you have.