Creating music can be bruising or even downright crushing at times. Writing meaningful music often requires isolation, vulnerability, and fortitude in withstanding dead-end after dead-end throughout the creative process. When an idea is finished, it’s put out into the world for everyone to hear and criticize – or even worse, to be ignored or never heard in the first place.
If you make music, you are inviting disappointment into your life in some form. And while young musicians seem to be able to roll with the inevitable physical and emotional punches of a music career, older musicians don’t cope as well. Add in the fact that as musicians age the non-musical aspects of their lives become louder and more pressing, and it’s easy to see why so many people stop making music after their twenties. An image of someone at a desk job reminiscing about the good old days of being in a band comes to mind. Lots of perfectly talented musicians trade in their dreams for lives that are financially and emotionally safer with claims that they weren’t good enough to keep making music. But the truth is that when musicians lose their passion, the world loses something as well. Individual musicians lose a vital creative outlet and the rest of us lose the music they would’ve made if they wouldn’t have quit.
Creating a sustainable, creative music practice
Musicians don’t have to follow the same sad path that many take in their 20’s and 30’s. If you’ve lost your passion in music, it doesn’t mean it has to be gone forever. By setting up a creative practice that’s sustainable, musicians can rekindle their passion. So many of us suffer from an all-or-nothing mentality in making music. “I won’t be successful in music until I _______.” Though this blank can be filled in a thousand different ways, it doesn’t matter because basing your success off any single thing in music is unrealistic. To rediscover passion in music, lots of musicians will have to identify old habits of pressure and expectation and ditch them. If you aren’t making music because the well of inspiration has run dry, simply making the time to get back into the game means you’re successful.
A sustainable music practice is something set up to suit you and your unique needs. This means making time to make music without distractions (kids, work, spouse, etc). You’ll have the most chance at rekindling your passion if you focus on making music in the most rewarding way possible. This not only means taking expectations out of the equation, but also focusing on doing whatever it is you love in music. Making an effort to seek out new recorded and live music can also help bring back musical passion.
Put in the effort
Everyone’s reason for making music is different, and so are the reasons why many musicians lose their passion. But in the same way that writing a solid song takes work and sacrifice, rediscovering or keeping a music practice alive isn’t easy. If you feel jaded and lost when it comes to making music, you can change the story, but not without effort.
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.