Written by Ryan Kershaw.
The Waiting –
I’m sure you might feel you can relate, when I say that the hard part about getting things done is often the waiting. Whether it’s waiting for the best time for a product launch or waiting for a response from a business partner – waiting can be a drag!
It doesn’t have to be all bad though, and as I wait on publishing services to be completed for my latest book for guitar teachers, I thought I’d share with you some ideas that you can use in ‘the waiting’, so you still enjoy your time as you eagerly anticipate a result. First, here are times when you could very well find yourself waiting impatiently:
- Waiting for An Email/Answer
For most, they are forging a career path on their own; taking on the roles of manager, agent, and promoter themselves. They send out hopeful emails to radio, management, and event directors they nervously daydream of all of the reasons why said industry professionals wouldn’t respond to their email. If this is you, this is a perfect example of when something is needed to prevent you from becoming a stressed-out ball of tense!
- Waiting for A Product to Be Finished
I love writing books; I really do. I enjoy taking hard-learned lessons and helping others by condensing what I have learned into easy-to-read writings. What I don’t enjoy so much – having finished the content – is the waiting period that follows whilst the manuscript gets professionally proofread, formatted and published. It takes time, and one is dependent on others to be prompt, professional and efficient in delivering those services on time. Again, it is no good just sitting around waiting or getting frustrated at the inevitable delays and ‘hiccups’ that occur in the publishing process. Patience and one or two of the activities I mention soon will help if you are in a similar ‘waiting’ situation.
- Quiet Patches/Burnout
A music career can be like the seasons: Winter periods of hardship, and Spring to plant seeds for growth. Those business or career ‘seeds’ don’t grow automatically nor instantly. Nurturing your ambition with the right action and environment will see them grow, but even then, you do not stand there after you have planted, waiting for a tree to sprout straight away. It takes time.
There will no doubt be quiet patches for you. Yes, sometimes in this case it is necessary to step it up, though it will take some honest self-analysis for you to realize if you need to exercise patience, to prevent yourself from burning out. Quiet patches and burnout are two very different things, though the latter is far less productive than the former.
WHAT TO DO
If you are experiencing ‘the waiting’ might already be aware of when it happens – though it is important to remember so you can handle these times in the future. Choose from these activities to make the time pass a little easier:
Sometimes the most productive thing one can do is rest. With a stressed mind and body, working on your career is not enjoyable and there is danger of losing the point (or the plot!). Knowing when to rest is something that a lot of people forget to act on, so use this ‘hidden skill’ to your advantage to stay energized and passionate about your career and your art. Read my Rest & Relaxation article here for some tips and suggestions on using rest in a busy career.
Often, if one feels lost in their career, it is because they are overlooking or under-appreciating the small steps in the processes along the way. If you are getting annoyed at waiting for an important response or a service to be finished – do small things that help towards the overall picture. An example of this could be writing or updating your bio so that it is relevant, deleting posts or graphics that make your site look old, change the strings on your guitar, or connect with an old acquaintance/friend in your chosen field. The small things are what hold the big dream up, so take care of the small things to keep momentum in the quiet times. See chapters 6 and 9 of Use Your Buzz to Play the Guitar for some inspiration on using the ‘small’ things to great effect in your playing, and for helpful tips on writing biographies.
Rediscover ‘Outside’ Hobbies
Trust me; if there was anyone who was focused solely on music at the expense of everything else – it was me! It may not be cool to say, but it needs to be said that focusing solely on music and nothing else leads to unhappiness. People generally need good relationships with other human beings, even if that simply means friendly platonic communication on a semi-regular basis. Connecting with people through hobbies is healthy and delving into new activities outside of music also provides inspiration for lyrics and songwriting. Think about it: a lot of your best writing might have come either from new experiences, or from observations attached to strong emotion. Try an ‘outside of music’ activity to ignite inspiration from both.
Enjoy Another Area of Music
For most of us, it was music that first blew our minds… not the music business. It might be that you are so focused on ‘making it’ in your career, that you have lost the joy of ‘just playing’. If this is the case, I suggest going to an open mic or playing music with some different people. You could get a teacher (especially if you are professional) or focus more on playing for the love of it, rather than trying to get more ‘likes’ on social media and pretending that you are getting closer to expressing your art sincerely.
Good goals give you direction and something positive to head towards and can help you to feel that there is still a ‘point to it all’ in the harder times.
I have had many musicians come to me for consultations who have done well, and have had their goals written in the past, but come to me feeling a bit lost. Whenever this happens, one of the first questions I ask is what their goals are, and 9 times out of 10 they would have none at that moment; no clear goals at least. I realize you might not want goals – you want ’freedom’ and to drive the countryside in a Van with no obligations or cares in the world. That’s cool – I’ve done it, though realize even that is a goal in itself.
Reassess your music related goals now before going on to the next strategy and see if it gives you new focus. Make sure that they are written down clearly. There might even be some old goals of yours that aren’t important to you anymore. Discarding them can bring you a sense of moving forward, and confidence to move on from what was holding you back. You might find that you no longer feel dependant on reaching a goal that was once the be-all-and-end-all. How liberating it is to remember this for the future and realize that you are not dependent on any one person to enjoy life as a musician.
It has been said that your outside environment is the result of your inner world. Whilst I don’t agree completely, I do understand the correlation. Many creative people feel overwhelmed with hoarding or a messy environment. I’m not talking about ‘creative clutter’ – I would rather live in a tree house with hobbit-type furniture, than a sterile white minimalist box – I’m talking about junk or old items that keep you stuck in the past. See my article on shedding here.
If you are in a time in which you have to wait to hear something back, do something positive and organize your creative area or office space. It will keep you occupied and instill new energy to move forward and totally ride the dragon for the next chapter in your creative career!
Know what to do in the waiting and you can turn it into a positive time, which is a pleasure rather than a pain.
Author bio: Originally from New Zealand, Ryan Kershaw is a musician and music educator, author of “Use Your Buzz To Play The Guitar” and creator of the Musicians Confidence Course. He helped to strengthen the music education community in New Zealand by bringing organisations together including Music Education New Zealand Aotearoa, Smokefree Rockquest, and Independent Music New Zealand. He is the founder of the New Zealand Underground Festival, which provided New Zealand underground musicians with a platform to connect with the industry, and currently writes for The Guitar Association of New Zealand, Audioculture and Muzic.nz. Ryan is now based in Ireland and continues to record, play and teach music.