#2 - Staying Motivated
One of the hardest things to deal with as a musician is rejection. Not even direct rejection, but people ignoring messages, not returning calls or generally people being unprofessional. It comes with the territory, but how do you stay motivated? Aside from loving what you do, what stops us jacking it in and flipping burgers for the foreseeable future?
I can only talk about my own experiences, so as ever feel free to comment and join in the discussion. The number one way to stay motivated is to live what you do, completely immerse yourself in it. Hang out with that phenomenal keyboard player you know or shredding guitarist or that one drummer who is as solid as a rock. Listen to music you love, not what you think you should listen to (unless you have a part to learn: learn your damn part). You need to be wholly surrounded by what you do, which means (and this should go without saying) that you love what you do more than anything. In my own career, I have left jobs to continue doing what I do because it is number one in my life. But what if you can't make it that much of a priority, I mean you want to but you have a wife and kids and obviously you need to ensure an income; so what then?
Although it may seem slightly vain or narcissistic, it is not bad practice to keep a memoir or journal of everything you have accomplished. Not only can you use this to fill out a CV or Portfolio, but you can literally see where you started and where you are now! It may even help you to plan out what your next steps in your career should be. It can be hard work to keep track of and to decide what is the next, most beneficial step for you career, but the most important thing is that it sits right with you.
Being a musician, however, shouldn't have to be hard work. Yes it is difficult keeping cash flow, and it is nye on soul destroying lugging gear around but if nothing else it is the epitome of freedom. You are your own boss and you get paid to be creative and essentially have fun. We have a license to be big kids and literally play for the rest of our lives. What isn't to love? Except sometimes we do need a break. That in itself is unmotivating, being exhausted and hanging on by a thread can leave us wanting to quit. That's why the saying exists; "too much of a good thing".
When I was at University, I hit this wall - hard! I didn't want to practice, I didn't want to do any writing and I felt like giving up. I couldn't figure out why until I realised that all I did was music, and although I needed to immerse myself in it, I was immersing myself in research and practice rather than the things I enjoyed. (Please note that I was at university to study and not just listen to the things I enjoyed but to better my playing - the most enjoyment came later) What did I do? I stepped away, in the middle of the busiest year of my degree, I stepped away and stopped studying. I didn't leave my course, but I just found some music that really spoke to me and just conducted a mental case study on the music - for those that are interested my case study was on Questlove and The Roots. You know what I found after nearly 3 months without practice, 3 months of just listening to music I liked, working out, playing Xbox and doing anything but playing music? I improved, dramatically! I was overworked, overtired and just generally worn out. Sometimes the key to success is knowing when to step away and go "I need a holiday". When I came back to playing, I had instilled my love of drumming again and most of all my appreciation for it. And now, after all my hard work at University I am free to listen to what I want to, and what I find is that the things I'm listening to these days are things I couldn't have appreciated before my "Case Study".
So, with all this in mind, what's next for your playing? Do you need a break? Are you happy with where you are or do you need to get back on track? I'd love to hear how you all stay motivated and you're own experiences with being unmotivated. Check back here each month for more blog posts.