Will “The Hunger” Consume You?

Derek is an MBA in entrepreneurship, painter, and bassist for Onward We March, a local progressive metal band. He teaches business skills to artists and writes weekly music business advice for his blog Derek Thinks Music. Got a business question about your art? Shoot him an email at derekmiller5@gmail.com

I’ve yet to meet an artist who was immune to The Hunger. It strikes artists young and old, established and amateur.

This is about The Hunger for success and recognition we feel when we’re at the end of our ropes.

It will consume you if you don’t manage it.

The Hunger manifests itself in different ways among different artists. Some turn the urge inward, others lash outward. I’ve seen it through:

-Burnout

Watching a talented artist give into despairation and repress their innate artistic nature is a sad march. Some give up art altogether, others

-Bitterness

Some artists will go out of their way to denigrate others and put down new musicians. Everyone began out crappy and it’s only through sustained effort that we become good. But bitter artists can serve up steaming bowls of negativity chili nonstop until new artists are full of negativity themselves.

-Drugs

We all know someone who deals with chemicals instead of their stress. What a waste.

-Starting a Predatory Business

This one I find especially irritating. Washed out musicians starting “pay to play” promotional companies or bogus “managers” who skim small bands without doing any work are all too common. They tend to like the phrase “exposure”. Yes, it is clearly a sustainable business model to take advantage of inexperienced artists since that is one market that will never disappear. But that doesn’t make taking advantage of others right.

The Hunger is a scary beast to confront.

Thankfully, there are ways to help:

-Side Projects

Creativity comes from assembling disparate sources of inspiration. Take a break from anything that remotely resembles your current project to work on an entirely new skill set. If you’re a singer songwriter, start working on a standup comedy routine. If you’re a painter, start learning how to breakdance. Everything is connected to the creative mind. Sometimes all you need is the right spark to jump start your main project.

-Structured Hiatus

   You’re pushing too hard to allow your mind to wander and make the connections needed to make great music. Choose an exact period of time, say a month, where you don’t even so much as look at your instrument. Having to wait for your deadline to get back to your instrument will make you value it more.

If you’re as addicted to music as I suspect, you’ll soon begin longing to play again and with that renewed passion comes ideas.

-Change Teams

Some people are toxic to the creative process.

Is someone saying “no” to every new idea? Too much negativity and stonewalling could be choking creativity.

Saying “yes” to everything is just as fatal. Hearing “no” shows us what people value and without this feedback, we can’t refine our art. Sometime we need negativity.

You can’t run without balance.

Sometimes it sucks kicking someone off the team, but being stuck unproductive and unhappy is even worse.

-Change Strategies

  If you’re not getting the results you want, it’s counter productive to keep doing the same thing.

-Stop Working For Free / Cheap

If you’ve got lots of work but are still struggling, maybe you’er not charging enough. Of course you’ll have less customers, but you’ll also have more money and time to focus on doing more fulfilling work. The one fatal pricing error is pricing yourself too low to keep making art.

-Day Job

   As romantic as becoming a full time artist right away is, being able to pay rent will severly impact your art whether you like it or not. Having at least one steady source of income gives you much more freedom to explore your art without having to worry about profitability before creativity.

I’ll be posting more on this topic soon.

-Find a Positive Mentor / Peer Group

   We become those around us.

If you’re surrounded by naysayers, sloths, or haters you’re probably one as well.

Scour craigslist, forums, blogs, and friends for meetup groups for artists like you. If there isn’t one, start one. Plan on once-a-month coffee / bar meetups, promote a little to attract initial attendees, and trim out negative individuals from the group. Having positive support from peers will keep the negative energy from metastasizing into The Hunger.

This is only a start for such a huge topic.

What are some ways you’ve seen The Hunger manifest itself, either in yourself or others?

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