Too much to do this week. I need to get ready for a run of 14 gigs, I’m sending out songs to a station in New York this morning, I’m trying to somehow produce a CD, and a singer wants to talk to me this morning about singing some of my songs. Just another morning in the life of an Indie Songwriter. AND I slept in this morning–yawn.
One of the best things about being an Indie Music Musician and Songwriter is that I get to do it all myself. That’s also one of the worst things. In this business, where there are huge gaps of inaction between successes, depression seems to be the bullet to be dodged. I know so many songwriters and really great musicians who are continually on the edge of some great, dark hole that is about to swallow them up. They drink way too much, use huge amounts of drugs, and spend most of their time acting out their paranoia, or just trying to get themselves started to do something–anything.
One friend, a really fine songwriter and all around musician told me once that there seems no point in any of it. He won’t play in bands any more, he has been working on a recording project for years, but it has taken all those years to get in three songs. Most of his time is spent, avoiding: the work, the creativity, life itself.
We Indie Musicians, and creatives in general, are a fragile species. We seem to continually live on the edge of some “block” or another. We seem to live in a zone of fear that we are not good enough, not sharp enough, not what it takes, and that fear-zone causes us despair, addiction, poor relationships, and a never ending litany of woes that can give us night terrors.
For many, but of course not all, creativity arises from a place that has been born of adversity. Whether poor, sickly, bullied by parents, school-mates, teachers; orphaned, or abused by people or systems or a combination of them all, creatives seem to be more vulnerable than not. It makes for great songwriting and music, but it makes for a tortured, depressed, individual.
What to do about it? If you are not the person who is depressed, but know someone, there is actually not much you can do other than offering encouragement, and any help you can offer without getting sucked into their depressive vortex yourself. You cannot make a person not be depressed. You cannot make anyone get fixed. They will need to take those steps themselves. You can do some research on your own, so you can offer them choices.
If you are that depressed person, then you will need to take some kind of action to become not depressed. First, it might help to identify the form the depression is taking. For simplicity’s sake I will say that there are two basic forms of depression: Situational and clinical.
The first you can do something about yourself–make decisions to change your lifestyle, your situation, seek counseling, quit abusing drugs or alcohol, maybe get into a re-hab center. Also, remember that heartache and pain may well be the fodder for great song material, but it can be the literal death for the creative person. The past is hard to get around when it is always lurking like a nightmare in the darker corners of your mind. So go see a shrink and work on it. Grief from a loss, whether by death or divorce, or some other means, make for a period of deep depression. It’s doable and you can get through it, but you may need some help with it. So seek out the help, and make sure that it is professional. Sometimes, just not eating the right foods, not exercising, sleep deprivation, as well as alcohol and drugs can be root causes of depression, so pay attention on those fronts as well.
The second form of depression is not something you can do something about on your own. This one is deadly, and even if you think your form of depression is only situational–your song got rejected–you still need to see a professional to make sure that it is not clinical. I have known too many people who have died from clinical depression. Way too many!
The life of an Indie Musician is, just in itself, akin to Type I Bi-Polar. We live with the extreme highs of being on stage, preforming to excited audiences, and we live in the isolation of the recording/mixing/mastering process. We many times need the high drama of the stage even when we are not on the stage, and so we create drama so we can relive the moment. Unfortunately, many of the dramas that are created are both dysfunctional and deadly.
My advice. Take care of yourselves. Listen to your friends, your true friends, who ask caring questions and offer cautious advice. If you feel down in the dumps and lack energy for days on end, go talk to your doctor. Also, it might not be depression. There are many very serious diseases that either act like depression or bring it on.
Remember this is actually the only one of these lives you’re going to get, and you either take care of it or you lose it. Be kool and take care!