Why Do People Want to Be Musicians?

On April 29, 2011, in Advice, by Magnolia Guitar

Are these girls keeping it light or pursuing a career?

Why do some people want to become artists, writers and musicians? Is it because they are inherently creative?

Ask any working professional musician and they’ll tell you that “Fame & Fortune” may have played a brief role in wanting to be a musician in some distant past. But the reality for most musicians is much different. It’s still the most fun you can have while working, but the keyword here is work.

Take Scott Clark for example. He’s a jazz drummer from Richmond, Virginia. He always wanted be be a drummer, because he couldn’t imagine life doing anything else. In a way, music chose him and not the other way around.

In this video, Scott explains some of the more mundane aspects of what it’s like to be a “professional” musician.

Quite often, people dream of what it would be like to quit their day-job and play music for a living. But Scott explains that it’s not a easy as it looks–it’s a lot of work. And it’s not the 9-to-5 kind of work that you can leave at the office. “None of us really knows what we mean when we say we’re going to ‘do’ music,” he continues. “They don’t teach you that in school. You have to make your own path.”

Similarly, Ira Glass from PRI and Chicago Public Radio’s This American Life has said that in the first few years of creating your art, your art will not be very good. He says, “It’s trying to be good, but it’s not.” And because your taste level is good, you realize how disappointing this fact is.

Both Ira and blogger/author Seth Godin say that at this point–this low frustrating point of creating your less-than-stellar-art–is where most people quit. But if you can believe in yourself, and your good taste, and push through what Godin calls The Dip (what Ira calls a Gap in the video below), then you will succeed on the other side. Partly because you need the experience to find your voice. And partly, because most other people quit when it gets too hard.

When you’re in The Dip, Godin would say that you have only two viable choices in this situation. Persevere through it or quit before you start. Because quitting while you’re in The Dip will have wasted all the effort you put into it.

All of this is a round about way of saying what I’ve said for years. No matter what your chosen art is, you have to believe in it and persevere through all the terrible early iterations of it (there will be many). As Godin would say, “everything looks like failure when you’re in The Dip.”

But just knowing that you’re in The Dip implies that you also know that there’s good things to be had on the other side of The Dip. And that knowledge helps you take those bad producing years less seriously and less personally.

It actually becomes liberating. It frees you to experiment and be prolific, which accelerates you through The Dip at a faster rate.

You have to get those bad songs, bad paintings and bad stories out of you so you can finally get to the good songs, the good paintings and the good stories. You might as well start as soon as possible. Your fans are waiting.

Thanks to Patrick Jarenwattananon for the original article on Scott Clark. And also thanks to Ira Glass and Seth Godin for their advice on creating art.


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