A huge topic right now in the world of media composition is work ethic as it relates to hours worked, and what it means to have a good work life balance. There are a lot of ideas out there, and at the end of the day it is completely personal and depends on each individual situation. In this blog I will share my personal philosophy on the matter in hopes that others may relate.
First, a major resource for media composers (veteran or complete newbies) is PERSPECTIVE: A FORUM FOR FILM, TV, AND MEDIA COMPOSERS. This is a private Facebook forum where media composers and professionals from other areas relating to media composition can discuss various topics or ask questions. This forum is a great place to meet like-minded people in your field and get a first-hand look inside the lives of (in some cases) extremely well-known and beloved media composers. One topic, however, that has been getting everyone talking lately is work-life balance and what it means to “work hard” and to forge a career in this highly competitive field. Before I go any further, it’s important to note that I am still a student, so my perspective is still slightly different from a working professional’s. I do believe though that my philosophy can be applied at any level whether you are starting out or if you already have a well-established career already.
To start, I want to state clearly and early on that this field is insanely competitive. Most everyone attempting to do this is an amazing composer and musician, and if you want to make a living, then you need to work hard. Extremely hard. Everyone else who is pitching for that feature film you want is working hard and so should you. That is a universal truth in every profession like this one, and that will never go away. This discussion is about how you can work your hardest and still have your life to live. The dirty truth is that there are many people who will say that you need to sacrifice everything, your marriage or relationships, your health (mental and otherwise), and anything else that it takes to climb the ladder of success. Luckily, there are also many people who have the complete opposite view. I believe that it is not binary, it is not a black and white discussion. There is a great amount of nuance in this topic, and I think it is important to acknowledge that. For instance, deadlines are VERY real and VERY important. Not delivering your cues on time is a sure way to never get called by that person you are working with ever again, so sometimes doing what it takes during crunch time, like pulling all-nighters, is a necessary evil. The problem, to me, comes when the expectation is that if you are not doing this every day of the week then you are not working hard enough or don’t care about this job or want to succeed.
It is extremely important to make time for your mind and body to rest, even in a field like this where you are able to write music every day for a living. As great and reward as composing for media is, it still takes a toll on you whether you are conscious of it or not. Your body isn’t meant to sit in front of a screen for days on end eating nothing but pizza. Personally, I feel like this goes without saying, but TAKE BREAKS. Whenever you are able, take time where you completely remove yourself from your work and do something else you love for a while and dedicate your mental energy to that thing you are doing, otherwise, you will spend the entire time worrying whether a note in measure 66 should be an A♭ or a B♭ and you’ll come back to your work as stressed as you were before. Same applies for when you are working: when it is work time, it is work time. Try your best to remove distractions, especially social media, and actually work while you are sitting at your desk.
There is still so much I would like to say about this, but I think I will leave it at this for now. The main point is to take care of yourself. Don’t let your work consume you to the point where you are unable to continue doing what you love, writing music. You only have one life, so make it count!