May 15, 2011

Getting Back on the Horse

Today's post isn't really a hard information post, but more of a morale booster or wake up call. Due to recent events, I began to question my choice of career in the music industry, and without turning this post into a livejournal, I was somewhat depressed. After giving it a ton of thought, I'm now doing what I should be: licking my wounds and getting right back to work. Take the following rant to heart in hopes that one day it may help you.
The thing about the music industry in general is that it's hyper-competitive in nature. No one is going to hold your hand, nor are they going to help you in favor of helping themselves. In some cases, the industry is downright "dog eat dog". This is pretty daunting at first, and I can guarantee, as an intern or recent graduate, you probably won't be prepared for it. You will be working hard at something, whether it be an album, or work-for-hire, or whatever, and something will undoubtedly go wrong. Someone will dime out on the project, or the track might get a universal booing, and it might not even be your fault, but the reason that this particular event will hit you so hard is that you'll be personally invested in the project. You will at this point have put countless hours into the work, and it's going to be hard to watch it fall flat.
To put it bluntly, the following feeling sucks. It can even be a trigger for post-graduation depression (it's a real thing, check it out). It's not something that's easily overcome, but it's definitely not the end of the world. Actually, it's pretty much the opposite. See, this event is one of those "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" kind of things. Now, granted, at this point you're probably not feeling on top of your game, and you're probably not feeling up to doing what you do best, and that's ok. Here are some steps you can take to climb out of this funk:

  • Step 1 is to clear your head. Get rid of any of the anger, sadness, and fear. This is kind of a loaded step, but it boils down to having some "you" time. Block out some time where you can be by yourself to relax. Read a book, take a drive, play a game, do whatever it takes to get yourself to a comfortable mental state. If you think you need to seek professional help, by all means do so.
  • Take some time to reflect on the event itself. What went wrong? Why did it happen? Think carefully about it, but don't dwell on the negatives of the situation. Look at it analytically, not emotionally.
  • Talk to someone about it. It's better to talk to someone with an outside view, rather than someone involved. Anyone with anything to do with the event will have a skewed opinion, which might not help in the long run. The point of the conversation is to rationalize it. How does this event affect you in the long run? What can you do to stabilize your personal situation?
  • Breathe, sleep, and eat. This one is harder than it sounds. When faced with hardships, we oftentimes forget to mind our most basic functions. Speaking personally, there were days during my particular event where I just up and forgot to eat. I'd stay up nights worrying about what I was going to do with myself, and when panic attacks set in, I'd find myself short of breath. The point is, looking back on it, I wasn't taking care of myself, and that only served to further my funk. Do yourself a favor, and if you start feeling like this, put some stickies on your desktop as reminders that you are in fact a human being, and that food is tasty.
  • Practice your art. By far the toughest hurdle to overcome is to start working again. After days of not practicing, your skills will get rusty, and since you're already in a funk, you won't want to polish them up. The best way to deal with this is to not have to deal with it at all (jeez, that's confusing). What I mean by that is this: If you continue to practice your craft through all the trauma, you won't allow yourself to get rusty, and thus, won't have to deal with re-learning all of your skills. While I won't say that it's easy to composer or mix when you're down in the dumps, it's certainly not impossible, and eventually, you'll get back into the zone and everything will be right as rain again.
Dealing with the industry can sometimes be like pushing a car with a dead battery in the rain. With Murphy's law in effect, some days will not go as smoothly as others. I know it sounds cheesy, but during these times it's important to remember why you chose this career path in the first place. You love music, and you love creating it. You love composing, or recording, or performing, mixing, mastering, whatever. You like when the kick drum goes boom boom boom, and you like when the guitar wails. The sound of a fist punching lettuce is really cool, and you like sticking a microphone in front of a window then smashing it (the window, I mean) with a hammer. No matter how crappy the day may seem, and no matter how hard the work is, our jobs as music tech people are the most fun jobs out there. Don't give up just yet, and don't sell yourself short. Hitting that first brick wall just means you missed the door. Step back, find it, and walk through to the rest of your career.
Best of luck,
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