How do you Harmonize Your Music Goals & Ambitions With a Meaningful Life?
Often a beginning songwriter will try to figure out how to follow the dictates of the commercial marketplace. I was uncertain about my goals when I was young, just starting out. As I learned the songwriting craft, I thought if you can write a hit (in the current mould of whatever that might mean) you would be repaid with a successful career and a great love life. In one songwriter’s chat group, a participant was overheard to ask, “Is it more important to be famous or to write good music?”
I remember, although I’m embarrassed to confess it now, that I wanted to be rich and famous. I’d heard John Lennon say the Beatles always wanted to be as big as Elvis and I emulated that attitude. So I tried to learn the formula for writing a hit song. I wanted to catch that wave that would lead me to the pot of gold beneath the rainbow. But it seemed I was trying to keep up with what my father warned me were fleeting trends. I began to feel like I was running to catch a bus that was always just pulling away from the curb before I could get on it. Because of the obsession with monetary rewards, the more time I spent at composing music, the less rewarding it was becoming, both financially and emotionally. I began to care much more about how well I was stating the message of the song that was trying to emerge. I aspired to create original melodies and words. I studied and wrote poetry to help my lyrics.
My dad’s warnings came true. I learned to write good songs but I didn’t make enough money at music to support myself. I had to get a “day job.” However, another life lesson happened: I learned that even if you aren’t doing the work (the music) you love, you can learn to love the work you are doing.
When I ended up in the financial services industry after my lack of commercial success as a songwriter, I learned about doing community service work using the financial knowledge I’d gained. I went out into poor urban communities and taught classes to young aspiring entrepreneurs. I learned how to share information and ideas to guide them in putting together their business plans—to answer questions about where to plan to reinvest the money made from the business. It’s helpful to have a practical perspective on your goals along with how to best use your talent and creativity.
What is Your Vision or Purpose?
Below from BMI.com Article
To make your life work more profound and effective, even for the economically minded artist/songwriter, I advise that you can include a mission statement as part of your business plan. I taught this in my entrepreneur classes.
A statement of purpose (or mission) will be very different for each of us so here are some questions others have asked in considering a mission statement. I collected these from other writers and put them alongside my own questions.
So, perhaps you’ve had a spontaneous outpouring of ideas and haven’t looked that closely at the content. Do you ever stop to wonder what you believe a song, lyric, or poem should actually communicate?
Do you want to speak for the masses, to reflect the concerns of “the people?”
Do you want to help people slow down and relax, perhaps find an oasis of peace in your music in this fast moving world? An American Indian poet friend of mine wants to give her readers an experience of a peaceful world to help them cope with society’s mad dash.
Adrienne Rich, poet, once said in an interview that she wanted “to express an expanded sense of what’s humanly possible.”
One of my professors at San Francisco State made the dramatic suggestion to her class, “learn to use the power of your wounds” to make your writing successful.
Is the current political situation important to you, so much so that you want your art or music to communicate actions or policies that should be adopted? You might be inspired by the Occupy movement to write a political anthem.
Our local Poet Laureate from Alameda (SF Bay Area), Mary Rudge, was inspired to write an epic poem called Occupy about the recent protest movement in Oakland, California. Mary’s script, performed by 25 local poets, was filmed recently and the completed video will soon be shown on public access television.
Of course, some objectives can be combined and you can accomplish a couple of goals at the same time. But if you’ve decided that your goal is to become rich and famous, you probably don’t want to read the rest of this article.
Actions That Correspond With Intentions
“If you play music with passion and love and honesty, then it will nourish your soul, heal your wounds and make your life worth living.” Sting
Unless you have dedicated yourself exclusively to commercial success, there is a kind of experience that will be required to define your mission statement or your creative vision/purpose. It will be an experience found in exploring your “inner life” that helps you come to terms with your objectives as an artist.
It will be necessary to look at yourself and scrutinize your goals. This can be described as a philosophy of life question. Or, perhaps your goals will be guided by a spiritual experience, something learned from a meditation session or from an “answer to prayers.” If you are a follower of an established religion, the church’s or synagogue’s message may be what becomes important to communicate in your work.
I like what the Cistercian (Catholic) monk, Thomas Merton, said about such inner experiences of self-examination: "We cannot be ourselves unless we know ourselves … We cannot begin to know ourselves until we can see the real reasons why we do the things we do, and we cannot be ourselves until our actions correspond to our intentions, and our intentions are appropriate to our own situation." (from No Man is an Island.)
If you explore these ideas, please write a comment and let me know what answers you discover for yourself. Sharing your vision is a helpful part of the process of developing goals that are important to you.