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Why Meaningful Motivation in Music is Earned

Why Meaningful Motivation in Music is Earned

There are times when creating and performing music feels hard, even for musicians who live for their craft.

If you’ve ever been in this position, it’s not something you should feel bad about. It’s natural to feel disconnected from creative work and motivation sometimes.

Make music long enough and you’re bound to wander through creative deserts now and then.

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Some musicians get burnt out through frustration over how hard it is to find audiences for their music.

For whatever reason, others can’t seem to feel the same inspirational passion that used to fuel their music.

If you believe that inspiration is something that magically appears out of nowhere, feeling creatively stuck can be especially frustrating.

Luckily, this mindset only tells one part of the story.

There are strategies you can use to bring meaningful musical motivation back into your life.

Here are three tips to help.

1. Pay attention to where creativity comes from

It’s true that creative inspiration can hit when you least expect it.

But there’s something most of us miss about how musicians and other artists discover and wield inspiration.

If you can’t recognize inspiration, you can’t use it to shape your music.

Doing that is part of being engaged with the world and yourself. Inspiration is everywhere around us, but it’s up to us to pay attention.

Inspiration is everywhere around us, but it’s up to us to pay attention.

If you’re too busy thinking about how your band should be getting better local shows or that your music isn’t “good enough” because you don’t have as many streams as you’d like, it could be right in front of you and you’ll probably miss it.

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But it’s not just about success. Plenty of musicians who aren’t obsessed with their career get uninspired for no clear reason.

Paying attention to life can be challenging during these times, but working at it is especially important.

What gives you joy or sorrow? What specific things move you about another artist’s music? When you first became interested in music, exactly what about it drew you in?

No matter how far you come as a musician, getting back to you original passion is mandatory for creating in a free and rewarding way.

2. Remember that meaningful creative motivation takes work

Some lucky musicians effortlessly feel a constant sense of inspiration in everything they do. The rest of us have to put in the work.

Bringing awareness to our lives is a huge piece of that work, but it shouldn’t stop there.

You need a strong daily music practice to go along with it.

The physical and emotional space where you create music have major impact too.

You could experience a sudden wave of creative euphoria or a devastating sense of despair, but it won’t translate into great music if you aren’t ready to quickly act on it.

The emotional spaces where you make music need to be able to handle the inspiration you bring into them, just like the physical ones.

Whether you write music in your dorm room or a fancy recording studio doesn’t matter as long as you have easy access to the tools you need to create.

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Your music space should be free of distractions, whether it’s the temptation to see what’s happening on social media or a talkative roommate wanting to hang out.

You have to give yourself as much time as you need to explore ideas and try things out.

You have to give yourself as much time as you need to explore ideas and try things out.

The spaces you carve out in your life to explore music in demand focused energy, and great ideas take time to unfold.

This means that writing only when you feel like it or not prioritizing enough time in your daily schedule for music will end up hurting your writing process.

True creative inspiration is priceless, but it only gets you halfway there.

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Giving yourself enough time to fully pursue ideas is the only way to bring creative motivation into fruition.

3. Keep trying no matter what

You might feel regularly inspired if you already give yourself the right amount of time and space to create. But that’s not a guarantee for musical success—far from it.

Doing the hard work of recognizing and receiving inspiration is difficult. But there’s not much else you can do to guarantee everything you make will be successful.

It takes most of us years of practice, and failing over and over again before we create truly interesting and moving work.

But that’s not meant to be discouraging. Choose to take on the challenge and let inspiration power you through every season of your music career.

Patrick McGuire

Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

@Patrick McGuire

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