One thing that I’ve realized, after 25 years of making music, is that no matter how many successes I have, there always remains a lingering pain of self-doubt.
Am I good enough? Should I even be competing against all the other fantastic artists out there?
I recently had a remix done by an artist who is 19 years old and it sounds fantastic, as good or better than my version. He’s 19! I’ve been making music longer than he’s been alive. And he has 50 times more listeners on Spotify.
But as with any endeavor, when you create something, you are making yourself vulnerable to the pain of self-doubt. I’ve come to accept this lingering pain because there is no way around it.
Someone always has a criticism. There’s always room to improve. There will always be someone out there that is better than you.
You will always go back to your earlier music and hopefully find joy in hearing it, but also cringe at what you did wrong or were blind to.
And no matter how much you try, you can never hear your own songs as an objective listener. So you’ll never really know how good you really are.
You will always doubt your place at the table as a producer.
Even when you have successes, those will fade. In the original olympics in Athens, Greece, they gave winners an olive leaf crown instead of gold medals. Since it was made of leaves, the wreath would eventually wilt and die–just as the taste of victory and achievement does. This is what it is like having a success: no matter how great the success is, eventually that feeling wears off and you may be left with gaping holes of self-doubt, perhaps wondering if you’ll achieve another similar success, whether your success was really a matter of skill or just luck, etc.
So how do you get past the pain of self doubt? Here’s some tips:
Make music you’ll love in 20 years. Is there a type of song that you’ll enjoy hearing 20 years from now? To me personally–and this may not apply to you–I am much more inclined to listen to old tracks if they have meaningful vocals and lyrics. So that’s what I generally try to make. I like to think I am building a catalog that I am proud of.
Adopt a DJ mindset. One of the coolest things about being a DJ is that when you stumble across a great track and fall in love with it, you can play it for other people and share that joy. When you have that option, it starts to feel less like a competition. Instead, every great song you hear adds to your excitement instead of making you feel insecure. If they came up with a new production technique that sounds fantastic, try to incorporate that technique in your music. Learn from them.
Know that there are always more resources available now. Back when I started making music, there were no youtube tutorials, no production classes, no sample packs and presets you could buy. Technology has made it so that someone starting out in EDM now will have an easier time than someone 6 months ago, 6 years ago, etc. That’s great! But try to avoid comparing yourself to others since it will only bring sadness.
Accept the pain of self-doubt. Know that no matter how good you get, you will always have self-doubt. There will always be some pain mixed in with that joy of creation and success. Learn to recognize that pain inside yourself so that when it pops up it doesn’t overwhelm you and you don’t quit because of it. If, on balance, the joy of making music outweighs the pain of never being good enough, keep going! It can provide you with a lifetime of passion, meaning and enjoyment.
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