One of the joys of living a creative life is that you don't have to play by anyone else's rules, and you get to call the shots on how you spend your time. It's always helpful, however, to have a list of guidelines to follow as a source of inspiration when things aren’t going your way.
Maintaining a positive outlook and keeping the big picture in perspective play a huge role in thriving as an artist. So, in order to avoid negative distractions and reach your full potential, follow these four rules as daily reminders of your mission as a musician.
1. Create constantly
This may seem like a challenging task, but constantly creating is a necessity as you strive for growth and progression. The important differentiation to make is the fact that "creating" and making music aren’t always the same thing. You don’t need to be in a studio 24/7 in order to succeed as an artist. Creative inspiration can arrive at any time and any place, so don’t be afraid to embrace it even during situations that seem inconvenient.
Write down lyrics when you’re traveling and use your phone to record vocals or a melody that comes to mind. Getting in these creative habits will turn into a daily routine and increase your overall productivity. Sitting around and doing nothing until it’s time to go to the studio is a huge waste of time, so embrace your craft to the fullest and be ready to create in any type of scenario.
2. Share what you learn with others
Some artists feel threatened by their peers to the point that they don’t share what they learn. Protecting your "secrets" due to the worry of someone else surpassing you is exactly the wrong attitude to have over the course of your career. Experience is a great teacher, and sharing the knowledge you’ve acquired with the right people will always be a fulfilling feeling.
When you reach the position of other artists valuing your advice, it's important to use your influence for the better and utilize your talents beyond self-centered priorities. There's always more to learn, and while personal gain is a natural motive, offering up your skills to others who look up to you will result in rewards that you would have never achieved otherwise.
3. Try new things
The desire to try new things and work outside of your comfort zone should be in your DNA. But so many musicians are afraid to push boundaries due to the fear of not being accepted by the masses. Everyone has their specialties, but making the most out of your talents is not possible when you don’t experiment with your style and sound.
Fans can be fickle in the respect that they usually want music that resembles your earliest work, i.e., the records that made them supporters in the first place. Succumbing to these requests may satisfy the expectations of others, but also stunts your growth. Innovation will always produce the album or song that takes your career to the next level.
If you find yourself falling into a formulaic approach to music, remember this rule and try something you’ve never done before. It may be uncomfortable at first, but you won’t regret it.
4. Take breaks
The first point of "never not working" is all well and good, but spending some time away from the music-making process can be refreshing, and you'll feel rejuvenated when it is time to get back on the grind. Whether it’s a vacation or just spending time with significant others, be sure to get away from the screen and your instruments for a while.
Burning yourself out will take away from the quality of your work. Listen to your body and rest when needed so you can put yourself in the position to achieve long-term success.
Eric Bernsen is a marketing/public relations professional and music journalist who specializes in the genre of hip-hop. You can find more of his work at HITPmusic.com (where he is an editor/writer) as well as HipHop-N-More.com, where he contributes album reviews. Follow Eric on Twitter @ebernsen.