Artist 101: When you forget how to "music"
On the surface, being an artist can seem easy but, ask any artist and they’ll tell you that it’s definitely not. Creating something from usually nothing is a lot of work and yes, it’s emotionally taxing. What people also fail to realize is that most creative people feel on a deeper level and it doesn’t just stop with our own personal problems. Sometimes the issues of close friends, family and even the world can cause an artist to need to take a moment for themselves. This is usually followed by a break but what happens when that day off turns into a week, two months or maybe even a year?
I've been a music student for my whole life. That means there's been a grade attached to almost everything creative I've done since I was 5 years old. While in school I didn't think much about it, but, after graduating from Berklee and surviving the transition into adulthood, I just felt like I deserved a break. About 4 months into this break I started to worry that I was losing my talent, more specifically, my ability to write. Also with my college career over and done, people started asking me what was next and where was my music? I'm currently 9 months into my "break" and while it was stressful in the beginning, I'm starting to see the light and I feel like I might start my move back into music really soon!
Since I know I'm not the only one who has gone through this, I decided to share what I did to overcome an extreme creative block.
1. Seriously, take a break
Forcing yourself to keep working on whatever project you have going on is almost never the best idea. When creating gets turned into a chore it doesn’t feel genuine and most likely you’ll end up releasing something that you’re not completely proud of.
A perfect example of someone that does this CONSISTENTLY is Maxwell. Maxwell often takes YEARS off in between album releases to simply live his life. He's pretty open about it, and has talked about it many times in interviews:
“The world is so caught up in the ‘American Idol’ idealistic sort of tendency in regards to just thinking that this whole thing [fame] is what everybody wants, but it doesn’t help you make a better record...I just wanted to kind of be a regular person for a minute, and not have to live up to anything from before.”
2. Spend time with CLOSE friends and family
It's been a couple of years since I actually LIVED in my family home where my sisters were just 30 minutes away and my best friends were even closer. Spending an extended time separated from the people who understand you the most is HARD. There was at least a three month period when I felt like I was constantly introducing myself to new people and that crap is draining! Because of that, it was so important to me that I come home for the holidays to see everyone and I did. Not too long after that trip, I started to feel a little better.
3. Listen/watch the artists/things that inspire you
There's two things that really get me excited about my career, concerts and Marvin Gaye. I love live music and admire the dedication it takes to put on a good show, and Marvin Gaye is just everything to me.
So, when I'm feeling some type a way, I either buy concert tickets or I listen to a Marvin Gaye album. When it's really bad, I combine the two and watch a Marvin Gaye concert. This is me personally though. I always recommend that people take a note of what inspires them whether it be an interview, song or even a picture. I keep a playlist of things that spark my interest and it does come in handy!
Reflecting is so important to me. I always like to find the root of why I feel a certain way and that helps me with dealing with that feeling in the future. Maybe you need to have a conversation with someone, apologize to someone or cut someone/something off completely. Taking the time to acknowledge this and do something about it is essential!
After graduating from college, I decided that I just didn't feel like singing anymore. That feeling prompted my break and simultaneously caused a writer's block so strong that I stopped writing as well. Four months into my break, I started to feel worse. After reflecting a bit, I realized that with music being such a big part of my life, cutting off a big chunk of creating really messed me up. I still didn't feel like singing though and was still having writer's block so instead, I turned to my (then) blog, DaGreenRoom.
I posted more and started to see a big change in my mood. It was in that moment that I decided to devote more time to my website and transition it to what it is today. I might not be writing or singing still, but through this process I was able to connect with other artists and it's been VERY inspiring.
Maybe there's a talent you've been neglecting because you've been spending most of your time on your main "thing." Take some time to nurture that other interest and I bet you'll start to feel better!
5. Slowly get back in the game
-Do little projects here and there.
-Collaborate with other artists and take the focus off of YOU for a while.
-Volunteer your time with an organization that aligns with your morals and talents.
The possibilities are endless!
Now of course, we're all different. These are the things that worked for me but then again...They might not work after all, I AM still on a break.
EDIT/UPDATE: I'm writing again and my EP is FINISHED so this did work!
Nonetheless, I can promise you that I'm WAY better now mentally than I was when I first started my break. I've been holding up my own EP with this but I'm slowly getting it together!
Fellow artists, lets continue to support and be there for each other and regardless of the obstacles, we gonna be ALRIGHT!