7 Ways to Counter Negative Thoughts as a Musician
When you decided to become a musician and pursue music, what were your dreams?
Were there stages you imagined performing on? Or what about different artists that you would open for (or maybe they would open for you).
To be a successful musician, having creativity and imagination is essentially a must-have. Unfortunately, when it comes to these large dreams, you can also taste a large amount of disappointment.
Let's list some common struggles you, and many others, have no doubt suffered through:
- Low paying (or free) shows
- Expensive equipment and instruments
- Fixing damaged items
- Writer's block
- Hours of work on music that no one seems to appreciate
- Lack of presence in your own community
For a creative individual with big dreams, these occurrences can be quite crushing.
As these struggles may seem like a musician's "rite of passage" early on, as months (or years) go by, it is definitely enough to take the wind out of your sails.
However, this does not have to be the case.
There are enough depressing things in our life; our passion should not be one of them.
If you feel a connection to what we are discussing and have been feeling down lately, we strongly recommend you check out our list of 7 ways to counter these unhealthy thoughts and feelings and replace them with a healthy, and optimistic mindset.
1. Take a Small Break
I'm sure you've heard the saying, that there is too much of a good thing.
That can also be the case when it comes to music.
Music should be an important factor in providing happiness to your life; your life shouldn't be existing only for the sake of music.
Whether it be a couple of days or even a couple of weeks, take time to get your mind off of music for a short amount of time.
Think about this: in a perfect world, music would be your full-time career, right? So, shouldn't some of the same rules apply to music as it would your job?
According to Bustle, five major benefits to taking time away from work (in this case, your music) include the following:
- You'll reset yourself mentally
- You'll feel more productive when you return
- Gaining a better work/life balance
- Rekindling relationships
- Reset your focus
Important note: Taking a small break is just that, small. You don't want to spend too much time away from music, or it will end up costing you. Stalling and procrastination are very different from a healthy, replenishing break.
2. Step Away (Temporarily) From Social Media
Social Media can be a musician's best friend, however, if you dislike your lack of "likes" and it's starting to mess with your head, take a small pause.
Sure, social media is a fantastic way to let hundreds or thousands of people know an event is coming up or when you're dropping that next single with a click of the button, but sometimes fishing for likes and follows is like being out in the middle of the sea with no bait.
Understandably, that can become quite frustrating.
The same way people become unhealthily infatuated with their appearance, likes, and subscribers on their personal accounts, it is common for an artist to feel dejected when their music page isn't receiving a lot of love.
Don't believe us? Click here to see the negative effects of social media.
Scary, isn' it?
Whether you step away from Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram during your complete hiatus or choose to continue focusing on musically organically while away the from the web, a little time away from social media can definitely do you some good.
3. Talk With Someone
No, we aren't telling you to visit a psychiatrist over your music problems. Although, there is absolutely no shame in talking to a therapist as nearly half of American households have someone that seeks mental health treatment. So if you'd like to make an appointment, you should.
However, other avenues include talking with someone you trust. Maybe a family member, or a best friend, or even another musician. Sometimes the best people to talk to about hardship are the people who are experiencing the same issues.
Being alone in our struggles is never a good idea. On top of that, people tend to have unique perspectives and ideas when it comes to situations.
Maybe someone you speak with will have a solution for you. Alternatively, maybe they will just be there to console you. Either way, it is definitely a plus.
4. Play Only For Fun
When is the last time that you made music just for the sake of making music?
I'm talking to grand ideas, not worrying how so and so will perceive it, nothing like that.
Just simply making music for the pure joy of making something you like.
If it has been a while, I suggest once you come back from your break that you start here. If you are at the point of having gigged for a while or played multiple professional performances, it may be difficult to revert back to your early stages where it was just you, your instrument, and your room with the door closed, locking the world and all its critiques out.
Unfortunately, it isn't that hard for your inspiration and motivation to wither away when it becomes all about work, money, and social acceptance.
So what benefits can
- Reconnecting the "art" in music: When you worry too much about what other people might like or if you're too caught up in your day-to-day non-music life, it may be difficult to remember what you are doing at the most basic level is creating art. Always love and remember that.
- Bringing you back to the early days: If you are currently a musician, there had to be a moment in time when you decided, "I am going to become a musician." Without a doubt, there was a lot of hard work to bring you to where you are today, but likely tons of fun and messing around, too!
- Escapism: Music is always an escape for the listener. They can lay down, plug in their headphones, close their eyes, and transport to a different world. Why shouldn't music do the same for the artist creating it?
- Empower Your Music: Want to break your creative block? Or revitalize your musician mentality? Playing music just for fun can help you conquer these tasks.
5. Cover Something You Love
Similar to just playing music for fun, covering a song or piece that you truly love could help you immensely.
You can take your mind off of everything that is currently bringing you down and just focus on the song you love, the notes and pitches that create it, and learning how to master it. By covering something you love, you will:
- Have the satisfaction of completing something
- Add a song into your repertoire that you can whip out at your next show or performance
- You may learn new rhythms or chords, depending on the song and your instrument of choice
Above all, unless the song you're covering is the hottest song currently out, it isn't going to make you more money, it isn't going to get you more shows, and it isn't going to get you more likes and follows on social media.
But that cover song isn't for them. It is for you.
6. Go Straight To Your Inspiration
When you're feeling exceptionally down and need a motivational pick-me-up, it is time to go back to your roots.
What makes you think of that artist? Pop in their CD or scroll for your favorite album of theirs on your iPod and really feel it. Remember what it was like the first time you listened to it. How did it impact you? What about it affected you the most?
Still not feeling the motivation?
Head over to YouTube and search some interviews with your inspiration. If you can, try and find an interview early from their career or when they are reflecting on their beginnings. Sometimes hearing them discuss what struggles they had early on and how they conquered them can be powerful.
If anything else, it is a clear demonstration that you're not alone and even your heroes had to fight away hardship.
7. Goals and Mindset
When does life seem unfair and frustrating?
When expectations do not match reality.
This is a common saying, and it certainly holds weight.
Let's look at an example: If you are expecting to have 1000 followers by the end of your first year as a musician and have made over $500 from only music sales, there is a really good chance that you're setting yourself up to be disappointed.
In the back of your mind, it is okay to think about how instant success could be enjoyable and exciting. However, that is not a great goal to have.
Two components that make a goal worthwhile are:
- Your goal should be measurable
- Your goal should be attainable
So how is this possible?
Use pre-existing data (that is why goals need to be measurable).
Let's say that you're averaging five new followers a month and you haven't made any money playing shows, gigs, or open mics yet.
A reasonable, measurable, and attainable goal may be:
- Have 60-75 new followers at the end of the year
- Put yourself in a situation to make any amount of money solely by music (even if it is only $10).
While that may not be incredibly exciting, it is reasonable, and if you see yourself exponentially exceeding your goals, that increase them accordingly.
Important note: The alternative to having goals out of reach isn't creating goals that are too easy and don't challenge you. You have to find a good balance where your goals are attainable but not guarantees without hard work.
Also, failure is not the end. It is important to acknowledge if you did not meet a goal, but don't rip yourself to shreds. Take time to consider why your goals weren't met and how you can put yourself in a position for success moving forward.
Attend the Music College That Will Keep You Positive and Focused
One way to stay ahead of the game and on top of everything is by attending an accredited Music School.
If you want to be fully immersed in a music culture with industry professionals and creative-minded peers like yourself, you need to attend the Atlanta Institute of Music and Media.
AIMM has Audio Post-Production and Music Technology Associate Degrees with focuses in Guitar, Bass, Drums, Keyboard, or Voice. Also, they also provide Certificate programs in Guitar, Bass, Drums, or Recording.
If you want to maximize your talent, stay positive, and learn from seasoned musicians that have experienced all the hardships before, click on the link below to learn more about AIMM and how it can positively impact your career today.