Singing well takes work. Playing an instrument well takes work. Writing songs takes work. Honing stagecraft takes work. Pulling together a band, booking a band, creating buzz… You name it, whatever you do in music, ad however much you love doing it, there is also a part of it that involves WORK.
To do WORK, you need MOTIVATION. Where does your motivation come from?
From doing the work for yourself… AND doing it for someone else.
Work for yourself…
Of course, you must have motivation within yourself first. If you’re becoming a singer just to prove your ex wrong, you won’t make it. If you’re learning to play guitar because you feel like you should, you’ll give up soon. If you are learning to compose just because your friend thinks you were born to write songs, you have no real reason to push on when the ideas aren’t flowing.
YOU come first – YOU and YOUR reasons, YOUR fire, YOUR emotions.
But work for someone else, as well.
When you work for someone else, you back up your own motivation with an external force.
This “someone else” may be someone you actually know, or someone you wish you knew. It may be someone you are working for, or someone you wish you were working for. It may be someone within the music world, or someone in a totally different field. It can be someone on the other side of the world you know only online, or a family member living in the same house. It could even be someone who’s passed on.
Why is another person important?
Promising yourself you’ll accomplish a thing is good. Promising someone else is much, much better:
It’s one thing to promise yourself that you’ll write a new song every week. It’s quite another to tell a musician friend that you’ll write a new song every week – and will report to him when you’ve actually done it.
It’s one thing to practice singing your scales because you know you should. It’s quite another to practice singing your scales because your voice teacher is going to be listening for improvement next week.
It’s one thing to tell yourself you’ll build that new product by December, or find three new students this month. It’s quite another thing to post the same thing on a forum full of other motivated people who are working to reach their own goals.
And it’s one thing to say to yourself that you’ll get the album done by Christmas. It’s another thing to promise that to your grandmother, who never knew while she was alive that you were going to become a musician.
Be accountable to someone, and you will get where you’re going faster.
Working alone, sometimes that flame of internal motivation can fade a bit. Working with or for someone, you benefit from the alchemy of relationship.
This is true even if you are inspired by someone you don’t know. I was listening to Eva Cassidy, The Golden Palominos, Ani di Franco and Kat Lytning this morning at the gym. I know only one of these artists in person, but they all inspired me to rush home and write a song as soon as I could. In a sense, I was writing “for” them – because my ideas came from their emotions – in other words, the relationship between my emotions of the day, and their emotions in the songs.
Lots of people co-write because of the benefit of mutual inspiration. When you co-write you are working not only for yourself but for and with your partner. You both benefit from each others’ work and inspiration.
And of course, there is the obvious inspiration of being motivated by your emotional connection with someone, regardless of whether you write for, with, or about them… or all three.
I’ll leave you with a few ideas of who you could be doing the work FOR:
- You practice singing for your voice coach, so she’ll be proud next time she sees you.
- You spend time working stage performance with your whole band for your father, who is so proud because he never thought he’d have a rock-star daughter.
- You write songs for your friend overseas, because you told him you would.
- You make the flyers and advertisements for your music careers mentoring group, because you publicly posted a goal of finding x number of new students by the end of the year.
- You practice your keyboard parts over and over for your bandmates, because you don’t want to let them down by making the same mistakes at the next gig that you did last weekend.
- You note some new lyrics for your secret crush, because there’s no other place you can express what you’re feeling.
- You write a new chord progression for your co-writer, because you’re meeting next Tuesday and you need to have something to work on.
- You write a song for your grandmother, because even though you weren’t a musician while she was alive, somehow she might be able to hear this song you write about her.
- You learn to program music for your favorite techno artist, because you would love someday to collaborate with him, as far off as the possibility may seem today.
- You write the newsletter for your mother, because you love that she always reads them. Hi Mom! 🙂
Who are you doing the work for?
(c) 2010 Adrienne Osborn