Struggles

Week 11- "No, You Don't Have Writer's Block"

So at the end of this semester, I'm proud to say that I will officially be halfway done with my degree here at Berklee, and so I wanted to take this week to share one very important thing that I have learned. 

Writer's Block is not a CONDITION, it is a CHOICE

I can see how some would be offended by me saying that, but I promise you, it is the truth. You might have a slump of bad songs like everyone else, but you are not blocked up. You are lacking inspiration and motivation. But good news; both are all around you, always. Rejoice! From this point forward, you should never give yourself the writer's block excuse again. It's a mentality, and an unhealthy one at that. I've gone through month long stretches, one even close to a year, where I felt like I couldn't produce any quality work and whatever I did manage to write was all white noise. But I never stopped for a second to find new inspiration. I wasn't reading new books, listening to new music, traveling to new places. I was very complacently living life, and yet somehow I still expected my mind to procure interesting and new topics to write about. How is that ever feasible!? It's not! 

So what specifically are we talking about? How do you truly connect to the inspiration that has been eluding you? Open your mind. Remember that children's book that your parents read to you when you were young? At least 10 good songs in there. Have any friends who have a life more interesting than your current one, or maybe they could use a pick-me-up song to help them work through some struggles? You'd have to be crazy to think there isn't hundreds of songs waiting. If you take that mentality, you are unstoppable. Songs are in books, movies, and general ideas (yes, I know it references Writer's Block, but agree to disagree- there's good ideas in that list). 

If you feel that your songs are lacking originality, or that they are all sounding the same, it starts with your inspiration source. If you're writing to your anger all the time, or your unrequited love for someone, well it's not too surprising that the other pieces of the song follow suit. You need to find the unconventional ideas that are floating around in the auxiliary parts of your mind. When you write about love, be creative, the audience will understand from the get go that it's a love song, so you need to throw in a twist in there that revitalizes the meaning and the importance. Or find a new way to say "I love you". Angry songs, I've been there, you just want to spew it all out at once and wreak havoc on whoever is on the receiving end- but that just will not translate to the audience. And I don't believe that you'll like listening to it either when you're in a good mood and you're trying to sing your way through it. If you need to write that song, incorporate a new emotion, like remorse, or pity, because unfortunately hateful songs will not quite hold up on their own when its just unrelenting degradation. The bottom line is, if it seems like something you've heard before, put in something new that makes it yours again. Maybe instead of attacking someone, make the situation into a metaphor and disguise the scenario. Maybe instead of talking about your undying love for your counterpart, tell the world how miserable the world would be without your partner, how they brighten everything around them. Now it still says what you wanted, but it puts a much more concrete image in your audiences mind and they get to peak into the story and make their own conclusions about what the song is supposed to be about. Generally, people would rather get their own input as opposed to having the meaning forced down their throat. There's no greater compliment then when a member of the audience is so intrigued by a song that they come up to you after a performance and try to know more about the background of a song. We're all human, start relating to people and favoring their curiosity!

I don't want to go on all day about this, I think you've all gotten the point. But really, you have a job as an artist or a creator of any sort, and it's to brighten the world with your abilities. Make the world feel your emotions, and allow your audience to unlock theirs. I don't have to tell anyone currently living in America that what we need the most right now is compassion and empathy. Regardless of your political views, this is a unified nation and the only people who will be harmed by fighting or violence is ourselves. I know in my heart that there's been a call from the establishment as a whole for new and vibrant art that lets us all push the reset button as we move into the future. Yes, your song may not travel far and wide, but if it affects even one person positively and convinces them that we need to collect ourselves as a nation, then you have outdone yourself. Keep writing (or painting, or dancing, or speaking, anything expressive) guys, it's what the world needs. 

Thanks so much for reading as always, I'll be back next week.

-Jamie 

Week 8- "Working Through The Rough Patches"

Hey everyone, hope you're all finding this well. This is midterm week here at Berklee and I'm looking forward to crossing the finish line in another month and a half. So yeah, that's how I'm doing. Anyways, this week will not be as dark as the title seems. I want to approach the setbacks for artists, because realistically, none of your idols have become your idols without some pretty intense frustration and perseverance. Let's get into it.

I'll be very honest, I am struggling at the moment. Struggling to write the music I want to write, struggling to advance my career, struggling to figure out exactly what my career is supposed to be. And I am so frustrated. But in reality, I'm doing fine. Why? Because I have come far enough to face these questions. I know that success can be just over the hill and it's perfectly natural to trip a bit before you keep going. Hell, I trip more than I walk some weeks. But that's part of the experience. What's to appreciate about success if you didn't earn it? The hardest fought battles are the most satisfying victories. I know I am never alone in my struggles. There are many artists who are way more talented, business minded, and creative than me who have the same struggles. That's how I know that it's not necessarily something I'm doing wrong. I won't sugarcoat it though, knowing this does not make the struggles easier. In fact, it makes them more aggravating because the seem endless. 

OK, we've talked more than enough about me, so here's the real blog post;

"You're doing what you're supposed to be doing"

Soak those words in. Artists don't get to hear those words often (until they've reached a biblical level of fame where they can pretty much do whatever they please). I think the reality is it doesn't matter what you're doing; whether you're a Musician, an Entrepreneur, a Writer, a Doctor- if you're struggling, it's because you're pushing yourself, it's because you're digging out your path in front of you. If that was easy, we wouldn't respect you so much for doing it. You've set an intense goal for yourself, and you know deep in your heart that it would feel trivial if it was handed to you. Naturally, humans go away from pain and towards pleasure. You're doing something incredible and inspiring, and there's nobody that can put a stop to your progress except you. I can't begin to say how impressed I am by the hard working people who put their heads down and make their dreams into tangible successes. How do they do it? There must be some sort of silver spoon, or maybe they caught a lucky break, right? No. No way. Look money is money, fame is fame, you can put forward all sorts of excuses as to why you will not succeed and why person X did, but at the end of the day, person X just made it happen. I'd be willing to bet quite a bit of money that it wasn't without some otherworldly stress, some tears, and a lot of shutting out the noise that says they should give up. I'll bring myself back in for a second- I think all the time about what if I just quit? Just stopped the music and picked a new career? I could. I might. But not unless I KNEW that it was what I truly needed. But for the moment, I have a dream and nothing can cut me off from it, not even myself. OK- back to the important thing; You, and your "soon to be" successful and amazing career that will offer inspiration for everyone who someday follows in your footsteps. If I can offer you one thing to get through the struggles it's this; DO NOT CUT CORNERS. Did you catch that? Hang on.

DO.NOT.CUT.CORNERS.

Look, it is so easy to want to just write your song, it's "good" and you pat yourself on the back and then feel like Leonard Cohen for a week (If you are a songwriter and don't know who that is, please look him up, please). But really, if you want this music to spread its' wings and take off, it has to be "Amazing". The kind of song that your friends keep on replay, the one people ask you to play at shows. Maybe they even know the words to it. And on the business side, if you want something to happen, don't wait on people to make your career happen for you. They won't. Sorry. You need to be quick on every response, don't be afraid to follow up two or three times with a venue- they're seeing your emails, trust me. Be a fighter and don't feel ashamed of how hard you will push. Be the kindest, most courteous and consummate professional that you can be.  It goes further than someone liking your music. You need them to love working with you. Don't be cheesy, but you should make it known to every potential employer that you appreciate the opportunity to the fullest. Give respect to get it. If you follow this model of living, the world will eventually give into you and your struggles will slowly break up. 

You're going to have some dark days. We all do. Sometimes that's life, other times its because you're being tested. Stay resilient, go seize your dreams. Thanks for reading, I hope anyone who is struggling currently can push through soon, feel free to reach out to me if you need an open ear. Have a great week!

-Jamie

P.S. I love this article, it's short and it's honest and informative, go take a look! It's very specific and a good place to start when you're looking for new angles to work. http://www.musicthinktank.com/blog/how-to-succeed-in-the-music-industry-on-your-terms.html