During my freshman year in college, I found myself at a bit of a career crossroads. I originally enrolled as a music major with a minor in earth science, but quickly felt my loyalties shifting as I began to explore the potential job possibilities within both fields. My decision to switch majors at the end of the semester was based on a number of factors, but the level of enthusiasm and excitement my professor brought to his classes was absolutely key among them.
I think passion is like that: it’s infectious. If you genuinely love what you do, it tends to show through in your work, regardless of whether or not you’re even aware of it. Other people can sense it, even if they can’t specifically name what is it that makes you or your efforts so compelling. In the case of my college professor, his passion for teaching earth science infused his lectures with a certain energy and made the subject material even more interesting than it might have been otherwise. I found myself eager to learn more about the world of geology, and began looking at a career in the field as being less of an academic or practical pursuit and more of an exciting adventure.
I’m sure there are a variety of reasons that a person might have for wanting to create and to take that creation public. Maybe it’s a desire to forge a career doing something they genuinely love, or to gain the fame and praise that can accompany the production of commercially-successful works. Maybe it’s nothing more than a desire to see an idea made real – to see the intangible rendered in a tangible form. Sometimes creating can serve as a means to an end, rather than as an end unto itself. After years of creating and performing music of one type or another, it was only recently that I began to fully appreciate the difference between these approaches.
It was around this time last year that I began to seriously question why I was still doing music – what I was hoping to gain from it. The industry had changed significantly, and the ways of monetizing music that I had been familiar with were no longer as viable as they once were. I was on the verge of starting work on a new Parlormuse album and had been writing on and off for Subtle Inversion over the previous months when I suddenly found myself wondering what was really driving my desire to create. Was it just money? Was it a desire for recognition or a sense of accomplishment? I realized I honestly had no idea. I was still doing it because, well, because that’s what I did. I was a musician, and musicians made music. So I decided to stop, at least to the extent that I could (Midnight Syndicate had just started writing for Monsters of Legend), until I could answer that question.
I’ve always had what I can only describe as respectful envy for artists who are particularly focused and passionate about what they create. The ones who don’t have to ask why they’re doing it – they know that they simply can’t not do it. I’ve wondered if I would ever find myself among that elite group, but I think I’ve been coming at it a bit backwards in thinking that finding one’s passion was akin to choosing one’s lunch off a menu. It’s not a case of looking down the available selections until you find the one that calls out to you (“Yes! It’s the chicken parmesan!”). I think passion comes from inside and is based on one’s values and beliefs. It’s found where those values and beliefs intersect a perceived unmet need – a need that you feel particularly inclined to fill using your own unique background and skills.
I’m still looking for an answer to my question about why I myself am driven to create, but I feel a lot closer to finding it now than I was when I started this journey. Then again, maybe I’ve had the answer all along, but simply haven’t been able to see it for what it is.