Journalism Tips: The Patience Test

Hello, everyone. Welcome to the latest installment of our ongoing Journalism Tips series. This column is dedicated to helping the next generation of music blogging professionals advance their career, and for this particular article we have decided to highlight the work that must be done in the days, weeks, and months immediately following college graduation.

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The vast majority of music bloggers get their start in the industry while in college, and it’s not hard to understand why. College allows young minds the time and space they need to explore the various paths open to them in life in order to find a career field that is best suited to their skill set. For those that believe music writing is their calling, that same time allotted for self-discovery can be used to create content. As time goes on, the student makes more and more time for blogging because they realize it’s a far faster way to connect with the music business than whatever access can be achieved through homework or long hours spent studying. This is not a bad thing necessarily, but it does set a precedent for that person’s ability to create timely content in large quantities that is almost impossible to maintain in a post-graduation world. Once the freedom of being a full time student has become a thing of the past, every single music blogger begins their own unique journey through what I like to call ‘the patience test,’ and today I’m going to explain what you can do to navigate these often troublesome waters.

Here is something no music writer currently in college wants to hear: You will probably not have a paying job waiting for you in the music business, let alone in music writing, when you graduate. The odds are immensely stacked against you, which has been the case for every person who has ever attempted to enter the entertainment business without family ties, and the sooner you are able to face that reality the better off you will be. The problem is, most do not seem to grasp this concept, and once their final internship comes to a close they are faced with the difficult decision of how to support themselves while continuing to pursue a dream that shows no signs of providing income in the immediate future. For some, this is a breaking point. I’ve come to believe that those who give up at this point in their journey were never all that dedicated in the first place however, so for the sake of moving forward let’s just assume everyone reading this now will not let a silly thing like their first post-college setback make them abandon the dream they’ve kept for years. Good? Good.

When you find yourself on the other side of the college experience with a degree in hand and a growing blog following online it’s important to understand that there is no way for you to continue posting with the same frequency you maintained in college unless you sacrifice the pursuit of a real world job. That is not an option for most people, and I am going to wager the same can be said for you. We all need to work in order to make a living and support ourselves, whether that be covering basic needs or paying off all that wonderful student loan debt you acquired over the last few years. Whatever the case, the first thing you need to focus on is finding work. The ideal situation would be something that keeps your nights and weekends free while putting you in front of a computer with little supervision during the week days. These jobs exist in every town and city nationwide, but whether or not there are openings that apply to you is something only further research will reveal. At the very least, you should try and find something that allows you to take time off whenever its needed for coverage or additional ‘dream job’ related events. Can you take off for Warped Tour? What about NAMM? Think about the demands of the industry you want to be in and consider them when seeking jobs in other fields. If you want to keep pursuing music, you will have to make time to do that, and grasping everything that continuing those efforts entails is key to properly preparing for your next move.

Once you find a job, be it full time or part, you will need to outline your new work schedule and see how your week shapes up. Some jobs will have rotating schedules, which makes planning far more difficult, but most will be the same or close to it from week to week. If seeing this schedule causes you to stress about your ability to pursue the music industry then try and take a little pride in the fact that your drive for music continues in spite of the less than ideal situations you find yourself in while trying to reach your goal. Most don’t have that kind of drive about anything in life because they never had the opportunity to find what really speaks to them. You have, and though it’s not coming your way as fast as you would probably prefer you are taking the steps necessary to be the person you hope to become. That’s more important than almost anything else in life as far as I’m concerned, and if you can remember how fortunate you are to possess such self-awareness then you can also find the strength to push ahead and begin your new – hopefully temporary – role outside of music.

I spent two years after my initial college experience trying to find a job in music, and in all the time in between those two moments I was working jobs I’d rather not admit to having worked. The tasks asked of me were never all that difficult, but they were also not at all fulfilling in any way. I simply showed up, did my part, cashed my check, paid bills, and then went back and did it all again. I could support myself and buy whatever I wanted to, but I wasn’t doing anything that I felt held any kind of significance in the world. Anyone could do what I was doing, and the only time that was not true were the moments I made an effort to create content for my music blog. Time was rarely my friend, as I was able to find full time employment that required long hours, but anytime I sat down with a blank word document it felt like every other task I had to complete to get to that point was worth it. I had a platform and a voice and it was being put to use. I was saying things I wanted to say that reflected the way I truly felt and it was making an impact on artists and music fans alike. My efforts were not as constant as they were in college, but in some ways they were more rewarding because of the release I felt being able to focus on something I loved.

Making time to write was not easy for me, and it probably will not be easy for you. Once you begin a new job you will have a new world of things to think about and focus on, which in turn will pull you further away from music. If you want to remain connected it’s almost entirely up to you to make an effort to stay an active part of the industry at large. I cannot tell exactly you how to do that, but I can say that making it a point to write and create every single day is incredibly important. As Brian Clark once wrote:

Write more.
Write even more.
Write even more than that.
Write when you don’t want to.
Write when you do.
Write when you have something to say.
Write when you don’t.
Write every day.
Keep writing.”

There are going to be a lot of days when you wake up and want nothing more than to relax until the workplace beckons for you, but those who choose to live that way never reach their full potential, let alone achieve their dreams. To make your dreams a reality you must make sacrifices, and that begins with setting aside time every single day for content creation. Be it a feature or a news post, create something everyday that can be posted in the immediate future. This keeps your name out there and gives people a reason to check your site every day, but it also strengthens your abilities as a creative person. When that dream gig does come your way, the skills you refined during this time will be very important.

Speaking of your dream gig, never stop looking for opportunities to get your foot into the industry you desire. The hunt for jobs is tiresome and often leaves people feeling defeated, but unless you’re constantly on the prowl for opening good opportunities will pass you by. Check job boards regularly, join sites like LinkedIn, and ask everyone you network with to keep you in mind should they learn of any new positions within the industry. Skills are only second to connections in this business, and if you have both you might as well be unstoppable.

I decided to call this period in life the patience test because that is the one thing every writer needs to keep in mind when going through this period in life: Patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and unless your resume goes viral for some random reason your career in music will also take a while to take shape. That’s just the way things are in music writing today, and truth be told the competition will likely on grow more cutthroat in the years to come. The best thing you can do right now to ensure you have a more successful future is continue to write, every day, without fail. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but as time goes on that commitment is harder to keep, and you will find it necessary to make various sacrifices in order to continue making time for creativity. If you slip, that’s okay, but you must get back into your routine as soon as possible. When the industry does call they will expect you to be informed, skilled, and ready to begin working immediately. Getting into the habit of writing every day, whether you feel like it or not, will aide you in prepare for when that day arrives, There will be no question of if you can do something, only how soon they want it to be accomplished.

The length of the patience test is different for everyone, but with constant dedication to your craft the industry should begin paying attention to what you have to say a lot sooner than most. Remember: It’s not about the destination as much as it is the journey. Work hard and stay focused, but don’t keep yourself from enjoying all the good that comes with each level of personal growth. Take in the sights and sounds at the bottom, so you can reflect on them as you rise to the top. I know it feels like it will take forever to get there, if you ever reach those heights at all, but trust me when I say that good things do indeed come to those who work hard and remain patient. You can do this. I believe in you.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.