Making music is something the world has a romantic perception of, which means that giving up is typically looked at as a sign of weakness. But make music long enough, and you’ll soon see that scaling back, changing course, or quitting in music is essential at times. Here are three times when taking a break from music makes sense.
1. When something in music is taking more from you than it gives back
If something in music isn’t rewarding you in the way it used to, then it might be time to consider stepping back and approaching things in a different way. Whether it’s through money, creative fulfillment, or a means to blow off steam, making music is sustainable for a person only when it’s rewarding. Many of us take the self-sacrificing route in music only to realize that we can’t be music-making robots that exist purely to create and perform music. Because art imitates life, your music probably won’t be very good if you’re not out there living a vivid and complicated life. Taking break is essential here because non-rewarding music routines aren’t sustainable. Step back, figure out why music isn’t what it used to be for you, and try again.
2. When musical relationships are no longer sustainable
People are endlessly complex, and that’s why relationships are the subject of so much impactful music. Giving up in music and changing course is unavoidable when irreparable relationships are involved. From songwriting partners who can’t stand to be in the same room as each other to seasoned bands not able to stomach the thought of another tour, quitting is the best option when musical relationships have soured past the point of no return. Of course, it’s always best to try to maintain musical partnerships, but if you know yours can’t be saved, quit with as much respect and grace as you can muster and put yourself in a better position to make music.
3. When a project goes nowhere
Making a music career work takes sacrifice, sweat, and risk to pull off. It’s not uncommon to plan something in music only to realize things aren’t what you wanted a short time later––an album, a tour, working with a new group of musicians, etc. Because the resources you’re able to commit to music are finite, quitting projects that don’t seem to go anywhere creatively or financially is often the best way to go. Everything you say yes to in music––whether it’s your own ideas or collaborations with someone else––translates to saying no to something else. Making anything meaningful happen in music requires time, money, and planning. Stepping away from projects that don’t have potential will help you focus on the ones that do. But I should note here that there’s a big difference between giving up on your own personal project and quitting something like a tour, which involves other people. There will be times in music where you know quitting is the best thing for you to do, but at a cost to the people around you. In complex situations where you’ve committed to something, sticking it out for a short period of time and moving on later might be your best bet.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.