Thursday, May 23, 2019

How To Be Thankful You're A Part-Time Musician | Music Think Tank

Complaining is just too easy. Especially when you don’t have what you want. 

Example: being a part-time musician.

Real talk: I write about music for a living and only a small fraction of my income is from music. But I want that to change. I want most of my income to be from music and a small fraction from writing.

It’s frustrating that I’m not where I want to be. I get so impatient with it sometimes.

See, there I’ve gone and started complaining again.

And I assume I’m not alone in this. So I want to share some practices that have helped me be more thankful, appreciative, and excited to be a part-time musician.

I think they’ll help you too.

Practices To Help You Be More Thankful

Here are some things I do (or try to do) on a regular basis. When I do them, I find myself complaining less and being content more.

Write Down Three Things

Every morning, I write down three things I’m thankful for in my journal. Then I sit and be grateful for those things.

Music is often on the list.

Then throughout the day, you can remind yourself of those three things and be thankful all over again.

Compare Yourself To Yourself

Instead of contrasting myself with another musician I admire, I compare myself to myself from last year, 3 years ago, 5 years ago.

I note the things I’m proud I’ve accomplished and the skills I’ve gotten better at.

“Jealousy is one of the occupational hazards of being a writer,” says Anne Lamott. You could substitute “writer” for “musician,” “songwriter,” and/or “producer.”

How are you better at what you do today than last year?

Do Less Social Media

I avoid social media as much as possible.

I don’t mean to sound like a “back in my day” type of old person, but I’ve found a lot of benefit from pulling back my social media use. I’m happier, more focused, and there’s less uneccesary stress in my days.

I have more brain space to be thankful.

Dr. Cal Newport, computer science professor at Georgetown University, has some first-hand experience with this.

He says he’s never had a social media profile. And he’s a successful author and speaker.


(I’m not saying delete your accounts. But think about how much more music you could be making if you cut your social media time in half. A lot, right?)

Remember Your Day Job Is Good

I remind myself how my day job and passion for music talk to each other.

Years ago, I worked at a bank in the call center. And I remember jotting down interesting phrases customers would say that would end up in a song.

Even just interacting my co-workers would sometimes give me insights into life that I would write down in my notebook.

Also, just having a miserable day job helped me better appreciate the time I had to make music.

And today, my day job is writing about music for places like Sonicbids, Bandzoogle, and CD Baby, so I’m mostly writing to other musicians. By doing this, I learn new things during my research for articles. Or I become more familiar with an already familiar topic.

Heck, sometimes I even inspire myself by writing about how to stay inspired as a DIY musician.

Somehow, your day job is good for your creative time. Even if it’s just the contrast of misery (your day job) and joy (making music).

I know I’m thankful for my day job.

Be Present

I try to focus only on what/who is in front of me.

It’s difficult and I’m not great at it. But I try.

You see, we all tell ourselves stories. We say “this and that” are going to happen tomorrow or next week, when really we have no idea. And our past is literally just a collection of fragmented stories we remember and tell ourselves and others.

But when I’m able to focus on right now, I find myself not clinging to any ideas of what might happen in the future. I also don’t feel regret or sadness about the past.

Okay, this might sound all Zen and hippie to you. And it does a little bit. But, man, when I can do this well, it’s powerful.

And as someone who’s doing music on the side, I’m sure you’ve got a bunch of things you want to do. If you’re like me, you have a to-do list so long it causes heart palpatations (not really, but you get the sentiment).

But if you can just do today — just do one thing on that to-do list — you’ll find a lot of baby steps will get you where you want to go.

What’s the single most important thing you can do today to move yourself forward in your music career? Do that thing.

I think you’ll find yourself more thankful.

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Caleb J. Murphy is a songwriter-producer based in Austin, Tx., and the founder of Musician With A Day Job, a blog that helps part-time musicians succeed.


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