Living a creative lifestyle can be really hard. Songwriters, in particular, often find themselves stretched thin, tapped out, or just plain scattered. If you're lacking motivation, or feeling dry creatively, it's hard to know where to turn.
Sometimes, though, a little push is all you need – and it can often be found in the wisdom of fellow artists and gurus. Fortunately, we're here to save the day with five quotes to get your engine revving again. And although these definitely speak to the songwriting experience, all musicians can mine some invaluable inspiration from them.
"Waiting to be discovered, hoping to be seen, wishing someone else would do the work, wanting to make it big while dreaming of being rich and famous just like your heroes is submissive, passive, foolish, weak, and ineffective.
"Take your desire for your dreams, your goals, and your ambition, then make them fuel for the fire to light your ass up, to get to work and on the path to make it happen." - Loren Weisman
This is a hard pill to swallow for many, and the quote may even irritate you. If it does, good! It's doing its job, and there's something you're feeling defensive about even if subconsciously. The "lottery mentality" that one day, out of nowhere, you'll get "discovered" or be an overnight success has actually been quite damaging to many budding artists.
No promoter is going to call you up out of the blue and book you to sing your homegrown songs at their venue, whether it's a legendary, career-making one or otherwise. You need to get out there and beat the streets. Climb the ladder. Put your nose to the grindstone and work. Lady Luck is a fickle mistress, but one thing she does honor is sweat equity: the more time and effort you put in, the "luckier" you'll get.
There's also a sneakier way our subconscious tries to derail us. Just for example, we may sign up for something like Sonicbids, pat ourselves on the back for a job well done, and walk away, never having created our EPK or submitted to one opportunity. Tools like these exist to help you get a leg up, but it's your own determination and tenacity that's actually going to propel you forward. Whether it's pursuing a co-writer, finding a publishing deal, or booking a life-changing gig, you're ultimately in charge of your destiny.
“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at 9:00 sharp.” - W. Somerset Maugham
I used to wait for inspiration to strike before I'd write. Sometimes, inspiration was a regular visitor – I'd write multiple times a week, almost more than I could keep up with. Sometimes, I'd write nothing for months – I'd become restless and frustrated. I think every creative knows exactly what it's like.
But Maugham (and many others) have cracked the code, and it's surprisingly simple: make an appointment to write. Set aside time every day, whether it's soon after you get up, before you go to bed, or in the middle of the day when you're feeling most relaxed. Write for an hour or two.
Don't put any pressure on yourself – just let stuff flow. When you get in touch with that creativity, inspiration is sure to follow more regularly.
“Without craftsmanship, inspiration is a mere reed shaken in the wind.” - Johannes Brahms
What happens if you have a great idea but can't execute it? Maybe it's a great lick that you can't play on guitar, or an idea for a song that you simply can't get right. That's what Brahms is talking about. You have the inspiration – 50 percent of the equation – but not the skill.
When I first started writing, I used to think I could crank out any old song that came into my head, and it would be solid gold. Looking back, I see that my skill simply wasn't there – even if my inspiration was.
Fortunately, I figured out pretty quickly that I wasn't the smartest guy in the room. I sought out teachers and mentors. I read books on songwriting. I attended seminars and classes. Dig in and work on your chops – and the next time you've got a killer idea, you'll be able to knock it out of the park!
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” - Thomas Edison
I know way too many creatives who wait for the perfect opportunity to fall into their laps – sometimes they even step over "good" career-building opportunities (such as local shows) because they have their eye on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. To put a finer point on it, they're "too good" to play local shows because they're "destined for greatness."
But greatness isn't going to come without experience, and that means playing local gigs and building a fanbase 99 percent of the time. Unless your uncle works for a label or something, you need to put in the work to achieve your goal. You should be doing something for your art every day – whether that's honing your craft, getting your music out there, or networking. The odds will always be against you if your music never makes it out of your desk drawer.
“For a songwriter, you don't really go to songwriting school; you learn by listening to tunes. And you try to understand them and take them apart, and see what they're made of, and wonder if you can make one, too.” - Tom Waits
Listen to music. Go to shows. Pick apart songs by your favorite artists and figure out how they did what they did. That alone can ramp up your writing a hundred fold, but I suggest going one step further.
If you're lucky enough to live near a music hub, get out there and connect with your fellow artists – listen to their music, and let them listen to yours. Deconstruct the cool stuff they're doing, and see if you can match or beat it yourself.
Being creative all on your own is definitely difficult, although some creatives can thrive in that environment. For most of us, though, it helps to bring a friend along for the ride. That can take many forms, of course – anything from simply having a friend and fellow musician to doing a full blown-project together.
One way to connect is to find band members and collaborators through sites like Sonicbids – if they're out there, they're probably in the same boat as you and they'll be thrilled you reached out. Worst case scenario, you make a new friend. Who knows? You may even find the McCartney to your Lennon!
Seeking knowledge from your peers and those who have gone before is incredibly useful – the artist's journey has been happening for thousands of years in hundreds of cultures. There's almost a zero-percent chance that someone else hasn't experienced what you're experiencing. It's good to know you're not alone.
If you run across a quote that really resonates with you, it can be helpful to print it out and keep it handy – maybe in your wallet or above the visor of your car. That way, you can look at it every day and be reminded and inspired.
Inspiration is only part of the equation, however. Don't forget to put your desires into action. As an up-and-coming artist, you need to use every tool available to you, and Sonicbids can be a major tool in your toolbox. Use it to find gigs, make connections, brush up on your skills, and submit to new opportunities. Don't forget to keep checking back too, because new stuff is added regularly. Make it a habit to get out there and seek new opportunities!
Daniel Reifsnyder is a Nashville-based, Grammy-nominated songwriter, having started his musical journey at the age of three. In addition to being an accomplished commercial actor, his voice can be heard on The Magic School Bus theme song and in Home Alone 2. Throughout his career, he has had the honor of working with the likes of Michael Jackson and Little Richard among many others. He is a regular contributor to several music-related blogs, including his own.