There’s an old Yiddish curse that says “may you do what you love for a living.” In other words, taking the thing you’re most passionate about and attempting to earn an income from it is full of challenges and can certainly feel overwhelming at times. After twenty-five years of doing this, I’ve found that it’s way too easy to find the negatives about a career in music. The good news is that I’ve found that there are also plenty of compelling reasons to remain optimistic that translate into real, tangible advantages as you make your way in the world of songwriting. I thought I’d take a little time and mention some of those below.’
I’ve learned over the years that the single most important element of my career has been my motivation. Metaphorically speaking, I can take a punch (or punches) and get back up every time as long as my desire to get out of bed in the morning and pursue my career stays in tact. Looking at the bright side of making music for a living is essential when it comes to maintaining this motivation. Conversely, looking for or dwelling on the negative aspects of our business is a surefire way to diminish and potentially destroy your motivation. Stay optimistic and it will keep you motivated. It’s that simple.
Another observation I’ve made over time is that optimism attracts optimism. It’s amazing how a positive outlook will draw others with a similar outlook into your world. On top of that, the more optimists you surround yourself with, the easier it becomes to stay optimistic. By creating this kind of virtuous cycle, you’re doing yourself and those closest to you a favor. Optimism really is an attracting force.
Realistically speaking, if we actually stopped to calculate the odds of every potential opportunity for our songs, we would see that they’re not particularly good. However, I don’t see that as a reason not to pursue these opportunities. As a matter of fact, it’s the success against those odds that makes for some of the sweetest moments in a songwriting career. A healthy dose of optimism will give you the courage to reach for the all but unattainable. Pessimism, on the other hand, will most likely freeze you into inaction which is a guaranteed way to avoid any success. And, hey, someone has to have success. Why shouldn’t it be you?
Optimism writes as optimism is. Inevitably, a positive outlook will make its way into your songwriting. Now put yourself in the position of an artist considering which songs to put on an upcoming album. What kind of song would you choose to represent yourself with? There’s a reason that “uptempo, positive” is all but a mantra in our profession when it comes to what artists and labels are looking for. This doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions but why not go with the majority on this one?
Believe me when I tell you that you’ll have no trouble finding things to spend your money on when it comes to a career in music. Given that the financial return on these investments is generally a long way down the road, it nice to know that one of the most powerful tools you can employ to move your career forward is completely free. A state of mind is a truly valuable thing and cultivating optimism in your day to day approach to your career is an investment that begins paying dividends immediately without requiring any financial outlay. That’s the right kind of math in my book.
I will freely admit that a career as a songwriter is not easy nor is it without a great number of disappointments and discouraging moments. That being said, a life spent pursuing your passion and connecting with the world through your songs far outweighs any difficulties you’ll encounter along the way. As with most things in life, the way you choose to perceive your situation has a lot to do with how much you’re able to enjoy it. Hopefully, some of the suggestions I’ve made will help you make your way towards the “sunny side of the street” as one of our kind wrote a few years back.