Regardless what role you have in the music industry, or any industry really, there will be a moment that you will burn out. In light of the increased numbers of musicians dealing with depression and mental illnesses, which have sadly led to suicide, this immediate pressure to continue to live up to this image that you create ultimately destroys you. As Elvis Presley once remarked, “The image is one thing and the human being is another. It’s very hard to live up to an image, put it that way.” The irony of it all is this burnout is a result from something that you love and you created out of love; your passion burns you as your enemy.
I can’t speak on from a musician’s standpoint, a buyer, or a photographer, but as a female human and an Editor/Blogger/Social Media coordinator, swimming in the music industry does beat you to a pulp. So much to the point where you’re left with nothing but this art that you’re creating, trying to find a balance and assuming, “this is how it’s supposed to be.” Unfortunately, I let this “image” or whatever I was creating blur the line of the human. Through many burn outs, the music industry thus far has been the most difficult due to the continuous evolution that occurs when you make an attempt to sleep for the night. Unfortunately, finding the balance is through the burn out.
I’m here to take away from Ernest Hemmingway who casually explained that “Writing, at its best, is a lonely life” — which at times I thought was my ultimate fate — to Stevie Nick’s statement on avoiding dating a musician and save yourself heartache “because they are going to find other women.” Those are the words of another during their moment in time, which created a tragic beauty, but nonetheless aren’t everyone’s words.
One thing is certain, there will be a moment you ask yourself why? If you’re not asking yourself why you haven’t pushed yourself to your limit. Why should I keep going? As a starving writer, I ask myself this quite frequently. There isn’t an exact reason why I continue this, probably why there isn’t an exact reason why a musician makes music, or an artist paints; it’s more so the common thread of an incurable taste of love that only can be salvaged by death or the actual act, similar to being in love.
This isn’t to avoid burning out or to encourage getting to that level, it’s more of the raw truth that this will happen, and you know what, it’s ok. It’s how you deal with it. With that said, this is the first thing to do when you burn yourself out or when you feel your light going out. Answer that question:
Remind yourself why you chose this in the first place. There was a moment that you decided this brought you pleasure more than anything else, right? Revisit that moment and if you don’t have a specific moment but a couple of different feelings that were unearthed from this, hold them tight. Personally, writing about and for music can get to a mechanic halt more so than simply creative writing. It can also be extremely thankless, especially if you’re a little fish in a huge and murky body of water.
There have been times where I have poured my heart into an article and not even the artist shared or took the time to lie and just “like it”, whereas I’ll see a couple of lines that seem to be redundant, or a “copy and paste” from a press release that has acquired a million shares due to the simple reason of the platform. Even more so to those who you have helped and realized they outgrew you like elementary shoes and can’t even send you a sticker…but I digress.
When I get to this point I think back to the first article I wrote about a band (about 11 years ago), and realized that it was this wholly expression of angst and therapeutic cycles of helping “the dreamers” while coping with my own life that made me scribble out the first review for a journalism class. It was because I was homeless, living in a hotel, trying to float above water and found myself in music that I needed to share the story. It was for the simple love of writing. It was for the simple love of music.
A decade later, it’s for the excitement of a new band who had their first review and starts to believe in their project a little more. It is for the newly exposed young adult who just recently discovered music not on the radio. It’s for the growth in artists which leads me to admire their success. This is now my why.
Yet, once you remind yourself why, the self-doubt usually comes in with a million reasons of why not. Instead of finding generic inspirational quotes that are as effective of starving yourself for a day to fit into some pants, deal with this head on. Yes, it will take longer. Yes, it might hurt. But yes, it will continuously allow you to truly love what you do.
Allow Yourself To Be Human
Once you allow yourself to be human and actually listen to the self-doubt, the easier it will be to fight it instead of ignoring it. You’ve already reminded yourself why, remember?
“Why are you still writing for Girl Underground Music? Just join a bigger publication again- you can’t keep up.”
“Yeah I could but what about the bands who don’t have a chance on the bigger platform? It’s not about that.”
“Nobody likes long reviews. Keep it short like the other blogs to get more viewers.”
“I could but then we would be like everyone else. It’s not about that.”
“You sound like your mouth is always dry, it’s disgusting– drink water.” (said while being on the air)
Remember, you’re human. It’s ok to get sad, angry, impatient, restless, anxious, irritated, and everything in between. It’s how you deal with it. You never know, you could be inspired to write some tips, or come up with your next hit. Allow yourself to be human so by the time you’re finished, you’ve either learned something about yourself or grown for the better.
Of course, at times the “why not’s” weigh more than the “whys.” Sometimes being human is exactly that.
Take A Break
The easiest thing to do is just take a break from it all. When you’re in an industry that changes every minute sometimes the fear of “losing” your ledge on a mountain, where everyone is trying to latch on to more secure hooks, can be a life or death situation.
About a year and a half ago I had my last mental breakdown (one of many, believe me) and lost everything. I lost my source of stable income and fell into debt. I lost a relationship that tore me to pieces, my car, my driver’s license, I slept on a couch, I was a loser for not helping my family, and ultimately I lost my way of being. The last thing, so I thought, that I had was GUM. If I lost this I knew it was over. I had a fear of letting go, even more so during this time, I got sick. I had a fear of taking a break. If I took a break I knew how fast I would be swept under the rug. Yet, at the demise of everything and the steps of nursing my own wounds, there was nothing else that could be taken from me at this point. I knew what I had to do.
I faced my fears and took a break from writing and music for almost 2 months. Disappeared from social media. Didn’t answer one email. Didn’t go to one show. And even refrained from texting. I was absolutely tired of the mundane cycle. I was tired of “fake people” who just wanted you while you were on top or what they could get out of you. I was tired of these social clicks. I was tired of being social when I was an anti-social, extrovert at times. I was tired of creativity becoming mechanical. I was tired of seeing someone that I love be fine without me, wondering if Ms. Nicks had it right all along. I was simply tired.
When all was said and done, it was the best decision I ever made.
Sometimes you can’t see the bigger picture when you’re in the middle; you need to step outside and refresh your eyes, refresh your love. I stripped myself away from it all and went back to my “whys.” When I physically came back to my craft my mindset was balanced. I allowed myself to know where I was at but more importantly I proved that the fear was just a self-inflicted thought; it wasn’t over, here I am.
When you’re in that cycle you truly don’t see how far you’ve come. There isn’t a manual on how to successfully follow your dreams, like there isn’t a manual on how to love, but we tend to look for one and compare anyways.
At least do so constructively.
Stop Comparing Yourself To Others In Your Field, Negatively
This is something that is inevitable because we’re human — we’re going to compare. Whatever title you may hold part of self-doubt usually trickles comparative thoughts but comparing doesn’t always have to be bad. Instead of being your own worse critic, which is usually the case, compare in a way that you are holding these pieces of works in their own light, where you can appreciate both.
I went back to my time writing at some other publication before GUM, about 4 years ago, and constantly went back to my former editor who was much younger than I am and living the dream I desperately wanted. I constantly compared myself to her success that it bared a terrible pain on my shoulder and added to this cross I built. Not only was it unnecessary, but my own work suffered.
It wasn’t until I took a break and went back to the thought of her that my perspective shifted. Instead of comparing how far we came with writing, I compared to honor her success as a young, female writer in New York City. This feat was amazing! She was able to prove that you can have a decent lifestyle by simply writing, and even more so in a male dominated field of music.
I compared until I realized everything is a choice. I could’ve had that life if I truly wanted it. I didn’t though. I wanted to create something else, something different, and headed off to the path alone. The comparison was now admiration; for where she is at, and for where I am at. I have no regrets because I know if I followed, GUM would not exist.
Everyone started somewhere and in reality that’s the hardest part, starting. Whether it’s for the 1st time or the 1,617.18th time (taking into consideration half ass projects). At least we have the luxury to start over, right? The image and human can be balanced with the dream. Yes, it won’t be easy but it shouldn’t cause you pain. If you took nothing from this, at least remember you can always start over.
Here’s to the dreamers and the dream.