I’m going to keep it real right now.
There have been many, many times in the past 17 years I have considered walking away from music, for good.
I’m talking “DELETE FU**ING EVERYTHING” levels of disenchantment.
As a matter of fact, this happened fairly recently, thus this blog was quiet for a while.
Luckily, the fire of music in my soul was only cooled to a slow-burning ember, and with time it has sparked again, but sometimes, you just need to take a healthy break.
How do you know if you’re burning out? Read on!
Signs & Symptoms
During those times of burnout, I loathed not only my own music, but all other music I had previously enjoyed.
I would even mute the stereo in my car I’d get so sick of music, with its guitars and bass and singing ::barf::.
The mere sight of my guitars hanging on the wall, or even a Facebook ad with some project studio idiot would make my stomach lurch.
“To hell with all of this, I’m selling my gear off and taking up photography.”
Which gives way quickly to:
“What’s the point of spending all this time, energy, passion and focus on music that no one will even care about? I’ll never be one of these dumb-luck musicians that gets any appreciation.”
This negative thought stew begins to roil and boil, leading you as far as listing your guitar for sale on Reverb or some other impulsive, desperate action like tearing down your Bandcamp or Soundcloud.
Other specific symptoms can include:
- Performance issues like making several mistakes playing a familiar riff
- Listening to your mixes and perceiving them as rubbish, harsh, annoying, etc.
- Inability to focus on playing your instrument
- All of your riffs, sequences, beats, sounding mundane and nothing “clicking”
- Struggling to write lyrics or compose a song
- General irritability
Diagnosis: Music Burnout
Many musicians have an obsessive and/or addictive personality. While this serves your art very well, most of the time, it can turn in on you and start eating away at your mental well-being.
Too much of anything can be bad for you, including the things you love the very most.
But there is hope, and we can address music burnout and recover from this woe.
You’re having thoughts about wanting to walk away from music because you really do need to get away from music.
So take a break!
It’s that simple.
Go indulge in another hobby, schedule a vacation, read a series of books, or simply sit on your ass for a Netflix or video game bender.
We sometimes place this sense of urgency on ourselves and our creative projects because we’re afraid some opportunity may pass us by, or some potential fan-base will get bored and move on from our music.
But if you put out good music, it will stand the test of time and people will continue to find it.
As an example, I recently had someone contact me about my 2016 home-produced Drive the Ghost EP called “Mystique“. They had stumbled upon it in the bowels of some music forum and it connected with them. I had long moved on from it and I really don’t think it was produced well, but this person loved it.
There’s no hurry, no rush, no race.
Outlook & Prognosis
So give yourself some room to breathe, your music has value to someone, somewhere, even if it is discovered years from now.
Take your time, enjoy your craft, and do it proper justice.
Time away lets you re-frame the purpose of your music in your life in a healthy way. We do music because we are innate artists and the music is exploration, healing, and expansion—a hiatus makes all of this clear again.
You’ll know when it’s time to come back to music when you start feeling that familiar, pleasant “itch” again, that slow building urge to grab the guitar, sit in front of the keys, or step up to the microphone.
I honestly believe that music creates itself, and we are merely the vectors or conduits of the art. When we try to force it, we can’t operate like we should, so step back, re-calibrate, and wait for the current to start flowing again.