I’m reading this great book by Jon Acuff called Quitter (a book not so much about quitting your day job but more so about pursuing your dream job) and I keep feeling like he has written this book ABOUT me and FOR me. You ever get that feeling? Obviously he did not, as he had no idea who I was back in 2011 when he authored it, but it’s kind of funny how much more we are all alike than different. Many of us struggle with the same problems and worries, with the same fears, same mistakes, same dreams… I guess it’s just nice to know that I’m not alone in my efforts and failed attempts, along with my victories, as well.
Anyways, as I’m reading this book a lot of things are coming to the forefront of my consciousness, some of them being things that I’m aware of and have done already, some that I am currently struggling with, and some that I didn’t even think of. Of course, as I read I’m not only paralleling this to my current career as a musician but also to my musicality and artistic representation as a whole. That’s something really important to do, I feel, because as a musician your passion and your livelihood are one in the same, and it can become difficult to see where you have drawn the line between the two. Things get a little hazy sometimes and you’re not sure whether you’re enjoying what you’re doing or just trying to keep the lights on.
One thing that struck me in particular from last night’s reading was about the fear of starting a new journey in general. When you pursue your “Dream Job,” as opposed to your “Day Job,” you have much more at stake. This is something you REALLY care about, something you’re passionate about; it’s your baby, your child… Failure in this realm of your Dream Job means failure of YOU as a person (not really, but you feel that way, at least) because you are so attached to it in every single way. Musically speaking, I can relate!
You’ve got those songs you’ve been working on for a while now, and you think they’re pretty good, maybe 95% there. But you held off on releasing them. Or you held off on recording them. Or you held off on sharing them with your band. Or you just said, “I’ll get to this later when I have more time.” Maybe you held off on starting a band altogether. Maybe you held off on pursuing a certain avenue of music, a certain genre, or a specific job in the music industry as a whole.
Well, think about it: What was really your reason for not moving forward? Obviously it’s something that you really enjoyed doing, something that you think is unique and beautiful; we’re talking about the music that YOU have created here. Why wouldn’t you want to complete it, or really start it, for that matter?
“It’s just not as good as I want it to be.”
“It’s not as good as ______________’s last record.”
“I don’t really know how to market it.”
“I’m not really sure if people would like it.”
“I just don’t have the money or the time to do it right now.”
“It’s just not ready yet. Soon, though!”
I could keep on going… And by the way, THESE ARE ALL OF MY OWN REASONS FOR NOT RELEASING MUSIC. I’m not actually sure about you, but as I said earlier, I’m noticing some patterns between all of us humans; more similar than different, mind you. So I figure that the chances are if I feel this way, maybe some of you do too?
The solution? Just start. Ironically, this is also the name of Mr. Acuff’s followup book, which I have not read yet (but I really look forward to it!). But it’s true; you need to get going on that record, you need to finish those tunes, you need to send it off to mix and master, you need to start booking those gigs. Just… START ALREADY!!!
Because here’s the thing: you need to grow, mature and evolve as a musician, a writer, a businessman/woman, a manager, an agent, a promoter, a salesman/woman, a marketing specialist, an editor… Yes, ALL of these are now the job descriptions of the average musician these days. If I could go back to 17 year old Jayme, who was locked in a practice room huffing out 8-10 hours a day sweating over the Dragonetti Concerto, and tell him that he’d one day spend more time at a computer screen (networking, editing videos and music, building web sites, blogging, podcasting, answering emails, etc.) than actually playing music he’d probably quit right then and there. But it’s true! Making music is only a fraction of what we get to do, and no one is going to do all the other stuff for us (or at least for free, that is).
And look at those words I used – Grow – Mature – Evolve – you can’t do any of those until you have already begun! The crop won’t grow until you plant it. A child can’t mature until he/she is born first! Before you can adapt you need to know what works and what doesn’t, i.e. trial and error. Basically, even though you’ve put all this time and effort into writing the songs or half-recording them, YOU’VE ACTUALLY DONE NOTHING! You haven’t even begun yet! You don’t actually get to do ANY of that stuff until you step one foot out of the door.
Now, here’s some relief for you, because I know how daunting this advice is: YOU WILL GET BETTER! My first recordings were atrocious. It took me maybe a decade to figure it all out, and I like to think that I’m still figuring it out. But at least I’m moving forward and not staying still. Perfectionism is actually more like a poison than a remedy. It really stops you from doing more than it actually helps you to do it better. I like the way that Mr. Acuff states it, that “90% perfect and shared with the world is better than 100% perfect and stuck in your head.” I couldn’t agree more.
Get started. Put one foot in front of the other and move slow. You’ve heard it said before that “You gotta start somewhere.” There’s never been a better time or place than now. Thanks to the internet and the efficiency/affordability of technology you now have everything you need. Make it happen!
I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty much pep-talking to myself here. But I hope these words will enthrall you as well! Just start already!