Avoiding Songwriter Burnout

"The more you know who you are and what you want, the less you let things upset you.” - Lost in Translation

Songwriting comes to each person in a different way - for some, it’s easier than others. It's not uncommon for songwriters to experience burnout, and many careers have plateaued or ended completely because of it. It's important to remember that burnout is usually the culmination of issues that are troubling you – whether it's friction with collaborators or a negative reaction to your songwriting from loved ones – and this can eventually rob you of the joy you used to take in it. Even though burnout has leveled many talents, you can avoid it – or, if you burn out, fight your way back. Here are a few ways to jumpstart yourself:

  1. Remember why you love songwriting: If you decided to pursue songwriting as an outlet for your creativity and an opportunity to create, you may simply need to remind yourself of that. If, however, you got into the songwriting business hoping for fame and fortune, it's likely that burnout is unavoidable if you don't receive constant praise and big paychecks.
  2. Adjust your expectations of yourself: Songwriting may captivate your full attention – but perhaps you get bogged down when it comes to the business side of following your dream. It's a good idea to try to do everything yourself at the start of your career, but that doesn't mean you can't use tools to make the job easier. Educate yourself about useful resources like Songtrust, which allows you to track and review past earnings as well as input setlists to submit to performance rights organizations (PROs) for royalty payments.  When you've reached a level at which outsourcing is possible, there are professionals like artist managers, song pluggers, bookkeepers and other professionals who can also help (for a fee).
  3. Listen to yourself: If you find yourself thinking it's not worth the trouble it takes to pursue songwriting, realize that this isn't a signal to quit – it's a signal to take a break. Go for a walk, unplug, and remember what you love about songwriting.
  4. Pick up a hobby: Many professional songwriters have hobbies you might not expect – Bernie Taupin paints, Rivers Cuomo (the principal songwriter and lead singer of Weezer) has a passion for Shakespeare and knitting, and Ellie Goulding took up jogging. It's okay to decompress, and by focusing on something else, you may actually think of that next great lyric without even trying.

Don’t get discouraged when you experience writer’s block or feel wiped out from songwriting - it happens to everyone. The smartest thing you can do is acknowledge the struggle you’re going through and actively work to change your environment and situation. You might be surprised - maybe your break inspires your next great work of art.

Photo by Kimberly Richards

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