I was taken with inspiration to write this particular article due to some ideas I think I’ve hinted at in other pieces I’ve written in recent months. One thing that I think I’ve already beaten this blogs readership over the head with is the importance of discipline if you wish to make it in the music industry. What I haven’t really discussed though is how people can teach themselves self discipline. It’s a skill I didn’t originally have either, but learning it has made me a far more productive and confident individual.
One thing that I have learned over the years is that the best way to get good at something is to do it over and over and over again. I mean – how else do you think I became a professional writer with no degree? I wrote metal reviews every day for years. And in the end it taught me a valuable skill and one that is still paying off in a big bad way. Other people who want to become great songwriters try to record a single a day, or at least once a week or month. (In my opinion a song a week or a song a month is a little more realistic – but then again – I’m not a professional songwriter!) Why do they do this? Because they realize that through repetition they’ll start to become truly talented songwriter.
What you may have noticed in both of those examples is that I implied a degree of regularity, or rather some form of schedule in the content creation. This too is vital because it helps to make sure you do it rain or shine. Now I’m personally not a Nazi about it, but I do my darnedest to produce three pieces of content a day, be this three articles, reviews, interviews, or even a song. I’m not afraid to give myself a sick day or a travel day if things genuinely aren’t working out but I find that the more sick days you give yourself the more likely you are to fall out of the routine and the more likely you are then to stop it all together.
I think the point I’m trying to get across is that discipline is in fact a pretty easy thing to instill – you just need to want it. Teachers would beat children back in the day in large part because it helped them to want it, of course, this was done in a terrible way that traumatized kids, so perhaps we should take a different route. All that aside, a lot of people who are filled with self loathing are such because they feel like they have no impact on the world – well, I was there, and I found that by working to produce content I suddenly had a platform that people cared about and it set me on a path towards (relative) peace. That’s part of why I create so much content on a day to day basis too, it helps me to stay sane and point at something I did and say “Hey look – I accomplished something today”
Now don’t think that you need to have this sort of breakneck pace, I realize that other people have jobs that don’t involve writing about music, but do realize if you want people to take you seriously in the music industry then having some sort of self imposed regimen like that can be extremely helpful. Of course, getting there can be difficult. In fact, that’s the reason why it’s so god damn hard to really get a place in the industry, getting the discipline is a constant struggle. Establishing a schedule is only one part of the equation. Beyond that there are several other little keys that can guide you forward in imposing self discipline and being able to have absolute control over your life and your path to music industry success.
One thing that I’ve found that really works is giving yourself a small reward every time you complete your content creation goal, be it writing a song, sending out a certain number of promotional emails, or whatever else. In my case this usually means having a little bit of candy or watching a TV show and practicing guitar, because yes, I’m kind of a dork. You need to reward moments of productivity with a counterbalance of relaxation – but always be aware of how long you’re spending relaxing. As Athon of Black Tusk (RIP) once said to me “Idle hands are the devils plaything”. If you’re not being productive then you might want to worry… have you fallen into a pit of laziness and desperation? The further you fall from your walk in discipline then the longer it will take to get back on the horse. No one said it was an easy path and you gotta just put your head down and go if you want to get anywhere.
Another thing that I’ve found really helps is being even more regular than just saying “I’m going to write a song a week” Instead it helps to say something like: “Alright I’m going to write a song a week. In order to do this Monday through Friday I’m going to work on riff ideas from 6 to 6:30, Saturday I’m going to figure out the structure and lyrics from 3 to 5 and Sunday afternoon I will record it and post it to Bandcamp/Youtube/Relevant Streaming Service” This helps you to figure out how to structure your day around your newfound regimen. Beyond that though if you budget a specific block of time for writing riffs don’t exceed that block of time. I mean if the ideas are really popping, be my guest, but sometimes it’s better to let it sit and allow the ideas to ferment in your brain. Then the next day you can take those same ideas and build them into something even more exciting and profound. It also helps to keep the work fresh and prevents you from slacking off on another day because “Oh hey man, well did two hours that one day so it’s cool if I skip today”. If you can do extra time on one day and then not slack off others, be my guest, but that’s a very tough thing to master.
Don’t think though that I’ve somehow hacked the music industry or that I’ve managed to become some sort of robot. I’m still just as bad at this whole self discipline thing as you are and every day I strive to get better. The thing is, discipline isn’t something you suddenly have, rather, it’s a crucial skill that you need to maintain and cultivate if you wish to really allow yourself to grow Every day you need to wake up and remind yourself “I want this” whatever “This” is and so – if you want it enough you will be able to find the time and drive forward to do it, I know you can.
Here’s the beautiful part – after a while this whole thing becomes automatic, and despite occasional setbacks the usual maintenance is actually surprisingly easy to keep up. Sure – it can be a brutal and unforgiving world and sure, it takes a while to get there, but I know people who used similar techniques and can now book a whole US tour in an evening. That’s no mean feat, but again, these people realized that they really wanted it. They looked at themselves and realized they basically needed to thrive in the music industry and were able to build it into something great. Like I’ve always said – it’s a lot of work and you’ll probably be left standing out in the rain for hours at a time, but fuck it, you’re the one who said you wanted it right?
Remember, no matter what others might tell you, and as corny as it might sound nothing separates you from them, and everything you think might is just your own damn insecurity holding you back. We live in a society that constantly tears you down, because people are scared of the disciplined person, even if they don’t want to admit it. They’re scared because they know that the disciplined person will always figure out a way forward and find a strange sort of victory in the desolate and ungodly pain this industry can create. Being disciplined is rare and it will make people want to hire you, even people outside of the music industry in case you ever choose to make the mistake of growing up. Reach out and cut the cord to Earthly fears so that you can truly and fully immerse yourself in the world of self discipline and determination. Trust me, it’s always worth it, even if you fuck it all up, at least you’ve got a hell of a story for the grandkids.
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