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You may think that burnout is a simple matter of being busy, but that’s not usually true. Most people in the arts suffer from burnout from time to time, and describing it as being overly busy doesn’t really come close to describing the feeling.
Burnout could be defined this way: The work you’ve put into a project far exceeds the payoff.
No, it’s not simply a matter of being too busy, though to be sure, that can be part of the problem. We all know people that we might describe as being “too busy”, and yet they seem to get an endorphin rush from having dozens of projects on the go at the same time.
For songwriters, burnout usually means (or happens as a result of) any or all of the following:
- You encounter constant negative reaction (public or otherwise) to the music you’re writing.
- You can’t seem to build an audience base.
- Being busy (but only if being busy means that you can’t recharge your batteries when you want to.)
- You aren’t getting any big gigs, or you’re watching your songwriting colleagues get ahead.
All 4 of those situations are cases where the work you put into songwriting doesn’t result in a satisfying payoff. In a perfect world, you want to be able to please others, watch your audience base grow, get the big gigs, and still have time to sit back once in a while and take a break.
Songwriter’s burnout can cause depression, anxiety, and a deep sense of living a life that’s missing direction or purpose.
If you’re suffering from burnout, here are some tips to help you get back on track.
- Take a break, right now. And plan the number of days you’re going to rest. Perhaps you’ll determine that you’re not going to write for 2 weeks. So do it, and feel good that you’re doing that. Everyone needs a break, and since it’s an important part of life in the arts, think of it as a different kind of songwriting exercise.
- Try a different form of artistic expression. These days, you can do a lot of this online, such as taking online painting classes, learning to write short stories, or learning carpentry. Or take dance lessons from a local dance club, or watch a ballet. You’ll be surprised how much this can recharge your creative batteries!
- Sketch out a yearly plan. Don’t leave your songwriting to random chance events. Write up a plan for yourself. Where do you want to be by this time next year? Who do you plan to grow your audience base? How many songs do you think you should write in the next 12 months? Just getting things down on paper is a big step to making you feel that you’re in charge of your own destiny.
- Try collaborating on at least one song. There are many ways to do this, whether it be by hooking up with someone else at a songwriters’ circle, to making a request from your Facebook page, to answering an online ad. Collaborating with someone who has a very different approach can be an exhilarating experience. That’s because if you happen to be stuck for ideas, your songwriting partner may have the solution.
- Improve your online presence. If you’ve got a website, redesigning it can give you a shot of artistic excitement that may make all your hard work suddenly seem worthwhile. If you can afford to have this done professionally, so much the better.
Burnout can make you miserable, and becoming less busy may not be enough to solve it. Whatever you do, it needs to end up with you feeling that the benefits of songwriting equal or exceed the time and work you’ve put into it.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.