For this entry, i wanted to broach the subject of sustaining your sanity, creativity, health, and keeping focus on objectifying goals and not just fraying at the edges. It can happen, and without some grasp on a long term plan, however basic, means you can start to lose the plot a little and heres why.
Any career path which sees you being a force of creativity, whatever branch of artistry that may be, you’re constantly drawing on a ‘well’. Its very much like a real well and for the sake of a throw down analogy, lets just say it will behave as such on many real world levels.
It will run dry, it can become unstable and collapse, you need to appreciate your climate and water table and understand what you can draw from it, and when you need to allow it to gather etc.
I cannot say with any grand authority as a fulltime composer and allround sound twiddler/messer, that my tentative 4-5 years give me the resounding voice of all reason on such matters, but having gone through quite a bit in the last 25+ years working within music in some form, and as said, these last 4-5 as a fulltime composer, i can def add something into the pot. Things that happened to me, around me and the forces of nature life throws up that one simply cant sweep under the carpet of wishful ignorance.
So lets begin.
Nothing allows your creative juice factory to remain ,well, juicy, quite like having options and variety. Its something tapped directly into human nature that despite appreciating routine , having a plan and lots of focus, but actual stimulating change is what allows long term survival.In fact it not only allows you to function over many years and dozens of projects, it outright facilitates this. It nearly ties in with the need to adapt anyway.
As a composer, you always need to constantly tweak and adapt to market trends, the new twists and turns in the way stylised genre is just evolving around you. Like when dubstep just arrived from nowhere, from the outskirts directly into all things main stream. Or when jingly ukulele folk pop announced it self a few years back, and like an overstayed relative, just doesn’t know when to go the fuck home.
Try as best you can to make your work day varied. If the music is all the same, then make other small changes around you, like when and where you go to take a break etc.
If all you ever do is super strict, and the music is just one flavour,ill break it to you gently, going from weekender bedroom hobbyist to full time is going to be a stark shock to your system and you may not have the legs for it past a few months if suddenly the opportunities aren’t their for writing nose bleed trailer cues or sports rock jingles. You will need to diversify and not just for our long term sanity, for the means of having other streams to tap into over a very long period.
As blogged about last year in my entry, fat, sick and composing, you will be quite surprised at how dramatic a long term career doing this thing you love, can alter a lot about your physical and mental make up. For me personally, the effects were physically dramatic in that i felt very sick most of the time, was gaining tons of weight, and felt less driven and focused. Losing valuable elements such as focus and motivation, are big concerns.
Mentally, you cannot simply expect to head off on such a big career and not take into account of this part of ‘you’. Its not only the nuts and bolts which make you the person you are, but the person you are for others around you too. You’re family and friends, loved ones. You need to understand that finding your own release and break time, is as critical as anything else.
It really isn’t like having christmas every day. People on your facebook feed who bore you to tears every 5 mins with another “love my job” post, aren’t telling you about the unpaid periods that year, the huge time and financial investment that went into their work, the failed marriages, the endless candle burning exercises whilst trying to meet all deadlines. Yes, it is without doubt a very unique and brilliant job indeed, but dont buy into someones foot notes, and then think, “this is the job for me, that guys always shouting about how awesome his job is, life etc”.
It can be, has the potential to be, but its not for the summer hols. Its not like a 2 week holiday in the Med. Its not going to clock out and become something else if you have a hard week.Someone elses edited life footnotes are just exactly that, take with a pinch of salt.
So take care of your well being in all ways because you are you’re own fuel cell. If any of that runs dry, its hard to kick start for a while, trust me.
Friendships, relationships and contacts.
When you do it right, all three can become more or less the same thing. I mean their are distinctions, i dont want to have a pint with my bank manager but i dont want to piss him off ether.
Its not quite like the saying, “its not what you know, its who you know”< but its not that far off either. You’re not looking to grease your way up the pole and stitch up everyone around you, mercilessly sleeping your way to the top, selling your grandma for a new gig. But yeah it still happens in abandon. Their are still a lot of people around you who will always be looking for an angle, and this clearly, isn’t a way to forge a long term friendship that will sit alongside you during your career.
You just need to realise this is a long term investment of your passion and creative juices. Its healthy and indeed sensible to help out people alongside you.As much as the next person can be seen as a potential competitor, their also your greatest allies too. When you are working on any project, for whatever team, despite the demands, the questionable way your spoken to, you need to keep calm and learn these people.
Everyone has their own language within their spoken language. Be respectful and patient with each and every person. When you are awesome to work with, easy to talk to and you know how to do your job, you are someone who is then instantly recommendable to others.
In the exact same way you wish your facebook and Linked in accounts to function, you have to actually do this in REAL LIFE. Not just hope some form of seven degrees of social networking separation will one day see you sat in front of Chris Nolan chatting about the free form score you’re allowed to write with a budget the size of a manor house.
Be a nice guy to be around. Short version, dont be a dick.
Recharge and Reboot.
It sounds simple doesn’t it, when you are in fulltime employment and feel like life and work are getting the upper hand, you book a 2 week break and fill your time with excess, booze and lazy sun filled days to recharge. Or you might disappear on a sole Scandinavian tour, camera in hand and a glass of red every evening etc, but as you will soon discover, being a sole trader or in charge of your own small company, taking a break and finding time and money for this, are a lot harder.
Their really isn’t a fool proof guide on how to do this and in my honest opinion you wont find one. The reality is, a fulltime job composing means you have to be creative not just writing, but you have to be crafty at carving out time to reboot. And even if you are telling yourself you are tougher, harder than others, try and tell yourself this after a year or so. Its not practical to believe you can function at 100% if you never allow yourself to gather.
But yes, you need some smarts on how to plan this. Your losing money when you’re not making money. Simple as that, but as several dear friends and relatives said to me, and all of them are now sadly passed away, you only get one shot at all of this. To say that old saying has a myriad of parallels for your career and life, is a huge understatement. Despite what you see as immediate cost to you, the payment will be far greater if say, in 18 months onwards, you cannot bring yourself to write a damn note of music and the other half has packed her bags because music is all you care about.
Long term survival is so many life skills you already have under your belt. You’re not reinventing the wheel that turns inside you, but you are reengaging with these life mechanisms, the understanding. Its exciting doing this for a living, that much i can say with not a cynical pause for comment! but doing anything long term quickly becomes a “Desert island” moment if you dont adapt.