Songwriter U: Enjoying the Process

What I’m about to say is either going to encourage you to wipe away some cobwebs and get going, or you’re going to realize something you haven’t wanted to admit.

I don’t know how many people I see drudging through the tasks of creating a music business. Oddly enough many do music for monetary gain and just want to reap the benefits. Of course, you can make money in music, but if that’s the entire goal, you’ll start to see everything as work and it quickly goes from exciting to “ugh”.

One of the secrets to my success? I’ve truly enjoyed the process.

It’s interesting because where I am right now, I enjoy it. Where I was a year ago, I also enjoyed it.

Some see being satisfied as the same as being complacent. I’m not proposing that. I’m saying if you don’t find some satisfaction from the process, your ultimate goal won’t be reached only because you burnt out before you could complete the steps to get there. And that would be unnecessarily sad if this is what you truly want to do.

At first, lots of musicians get into music because they have a passion for it, but then find it looks a lot more like a business than they thought it would. There are many many things to figure out, and it’s not a bad thing, it’s just about analyzing, tweaking, and figuring out the next step.

I’ve been privy to some lamenting about the industry. The drudgery is palpable. It makes me think, “You mean you hate doing the things that are a huge part of the journey?” It’s a huge red flag. Sure there will be harder days and you won’t be bouncing off the wall at all times, but you can stay curious.

Oddly enough if you find yourself thinking, “Oh shit, that just blew up in my face…” It means you tried and it’s a great sign. Instead of hiding from it, you could be excited to pick up the pieces and find out why it happened. Each time you fail at something, you’re getting clues to the next step and you’re getting further along. Your failures are your own personal coach. If you keep getting further along, you see how to pick up the pieces from that thing you did before.

Not everything is going to blow up, but things aren’t going to work out perfectly, and that’s the whole point of a process—it’s not perfect and it doesn’t look one certain way, but you can still have fun with where you are while figuring out how to get to the next step.

This whole topic reminds me of that scene in The Office where the employees are fervently watching a screen as Michael rambles. They’re watching an image of a DVD bouncing back and forth on the screen that never lands perfectly in the corner. It sounds monotonous, but they’re anticipating with glee and hoping for the moment when it finally fits. It’s a silly thing to get amped up about, but they do. They celebrate for a few seconds and then it’s over. The beauty of that scene is seeing their excited energy while waiting for this one thing to happen.

I think music is like that. It’s about having fun between the wins. The process has to be enjoyable because after the payoff happens, it’s a celebration, and then more day-to-day work.

You have to enjoy the process, period. If you don’t, don’t even bother. Pack up and find something else. Even if you reach the monetary goal—you’re going to look back at your time—not with fondness, but you’ll see the drudgery and the grind and hate it. But, those who find enjoyment and are making money aren’t concentrating on it, they’re more interested in the craft and totally geeking out over something.

Right now I’m geeking out over a couple of things. One is that I’m looking at scores and downloading sheet music to study. The whole thing intrigues me and I want to know more. When you stay curious, that’s when you know you’re on the right path.

The question is, what part of music makes you geek out or light you up? Or, has the process gotten so monotonous that you can’t think of anything? My friend, it’s time to pack it up if that’s the case. If it’s truly all gone, this is not the business for you. It’ll be drudgery all the way and what can you ever create that inspires people if you yourself aren’t inspired?

But if you’re thinking, ‘Mike, it’s not that simple …’ Okay then, we need to seriously get you back to enjoying it.

Is it that you need to learn something new or need to find peers or mentors who are excited about you? Maybe it’s that you’re sitting at your computer too long and depriving yourself of breaks or fresh air. Maybe you’ve stopped challenging yourself in ways that light you up. Maybe you just need to be nicer to yourself, change your way of thinking, or change up your schedule. There’s SO much you can do to increase enjoyment in this process and in your day-to-day life.

Ways to start finding joy in the process :

1. Don’t reach for perfection right away. Don’t.

2. Take a break – it’s required.

3. Go see a show or listen to some music that inspires you.

4. Listen to something you love and try to recreate it.

5. Recognize when you’ve done something challenging and celebrate.

It’s a great thing that you’re on this journey for “xyz”… but remember to keep your joy. You’re doing this for you. You are worth it.

Mike Meiers is an Emmy Award-Winning songwriter, producer, and guitar coach. Mike currently writes for indie artists, has had placements for MTV, VH1 NPR, FOX Sports, History Channel, Showtime, and Target. He’s also the founder and coach at Songwriting For Guitarhelping songwriters enhance their guitar skills so they can write better songs and get them out into the world!

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