why do artists stay stuck?

The hardest thing to do as a talented, hungry musician that feels stuck, is to stop playing shows with lazy artists at the same old spots.  playing a show at a small bar can totally be a good fit, but if you’re playing with bands or rappers who just want to show up, perform and drink and don’t put any effort into promo, you’re fucked.  It’s going to be groundhogs day forever.

There’s a very strong psychology to those artists who won't put the work in (including myself).  There’s a deeply embedded reason that we won’t, and we aren’t even cognizant of it.  I don’t know exactly what it is, but it certainly has to do with staying in our comfort zone.

What we really have to do is say “I’m going to do X.  No matter what it takes.  I’ll rearrange my life in order to prioritize X.”  Most blocked artists pick their X based on what they’re comfortable doing, and then build their life around that.  This mindset makes it really easy for us to act like our lack of a career is happening TO them, when really we are the active agent.  We feel like there’s no way to make it happen under our circumstances.  And we're right — there isn’t.  That’s why we have to change our circumstances.  Otherwise what we are really saying is: “I refuse to let go of the things I find comfortable and normal, even if I'm not really happy with them.” Except it comes out as “I can’t spend that much time networking or learning design, or working on my live set, because I would have to stop going to work or taking care of my kid.”  …No, you would have to stop spending 2 hours a day watching Netflix and 3 hours a day on Facebook, or you would have to quit the job that you hate and find something better, or you would have to stop spending every other night at the bar “decompressing."

We have to rip the band aid off and feel totally raw, totally stupid and inadequate.  We have to cast off our coping mechanisms and feel our feelings, and make room for a new experience.  Then we can really grasp something that works.

Being around people who are prone to the same blocked tendencies is like being in the doldrums in Phantom Tollbooth.  Even if you know you want to get out, the contagious attitude subtly drags you down.  It’s not like taking the red pill in the matrix: you don’t just go “oh, I get it now” and remain awake forever.

I try to remind myself, mostly by telling others, that we’ve traded in the discomfort of being stuck in the bullshit for the discomfort of constantly pushing ourselves to get out of the bullshit.  It’s easy to forget that challenging yourself to grow doesn’t necessarily make you LESS stressed out or alienated.  You have to challenge yourself to grow AND challenge yourself to take good CARE of yourself when you're feeling those feelings.