Tech Tip:Don't Quit Your Day Job
You're slaving away at your day job, playing your music at night and on the weekends, and it seems you'll never have enough time to write, record and tour when 40 hours of your week are cashed in for that steady paycheck. You can't help but think, "If only I could quit my job to work on my music full time, I'd be able to make it."
Last year, I had a chance to do just that, and I learned a few things during my exciting, though sometimes heartbreaking year of freedom. Although it certainly feels great to throw caution to the wind and dive head first into pursuing your dream, my biggest barrier to success remained the same. I simply did not use my time and resources wisely.
Without a day job, I felt like I had all the time in the world, and filled a lot of it with trips to the gym, reorganizing my apartment and lunches with friends. "I don't have the time" is a great excuse, but it stems from our human fear of failure, as well as our fear of success. The truth is that most people are comfortable living their lives and dreaming their dreams, to the point where their dream becomes their reason to live. If they were to achieve their dream, what would they live for? Or worse, what if they tried and failed?
For a performing artist, touring is the number one thing you figure you don't have time to do with a day job. In my entire year off, I only did a handful out of town gigs because I had to be cautious with money and I felt that my time was better spent going to music conferences like South By Southwest and the TAXI Road Rally. Conferences are fantastic because they give you a chance to play in new cities while networking with industry and other artists. However, most of these conferences are scheduled for weekends, so it would make more sense to get a Friday off from work, pack up a few demos, and report back Monday morning with a stack of new contacts to keep in touch with. Sure, it's a tough schedule, but those steady paychecks sure come in handy when you need to book airfare and order more copies of your CD for the next conference.
I always thought that if I had more time I would sit down every single day and write hit song after hit song. Once I had the time, I was so wrapped up in the logistics of how to make a living with the music I had, not to mention the pressure of the ticking clock of my dwindling savings, I never got around to writing new music. When you're working and your bills are getting paid, all day you yearn to be creative, so when you feel that spark of inspiration, you hold onto it with every fiber. I also found that by removing myself from the daily experiences and emotions of a "normal" life, I had very little to write about that an audience could relate to. I began to miss the structure and security of my cubicle.
At the end of my year off I hadn't achieved the success I hoped for, couldn't write a song to save my life, and I was burnt out and exhausted from trying. I honestly felt that if I couldn't make it in that whole year on my own, maybe I wasn't cut out for the life of a full-time musician. Devastated, I took a day job and three months away from writing, playing or generally being around my music (ironic, don't ya think?). I needed to gather my thoughts, rediscover my creativity, and remember why I took that monumental risk and gave my dream a full-time shot in the first place.
Succeeding in my new job gave me back a basic sense of accomplishment every day, and I learned to make the most of my nights and weekends. I started coming up with lyrics at my desk and I'm recording an EP of new songs with my steady paycheck. As a songwriter, I generally steer away from cliches, but it turns out there are no truer words then "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it," and more importantly, "Don't quit your day job."
Mara is a singer/songwriter/TAXI member living in Los Angeles and keeping busy with Music Connection Magazine and www.marasong.com. She also writes bios and press releases for artists at www.flyingcoasterpr.com.