The Muse's Muse  
Muses MailMuses Newsmuse chatsongwriting resource home
The Emerging Artist
Dealing With Stress And Setbacks
By Leon Olguin, Edited by Sheryl Olguin

2001, Leon & Sheryl Olguin. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission

We live in an age of high stress. Everyone seems to be too busy to enjoy life, too stressed out to ever really relax, and too worried about everything.

As a musician, you've probably figured out by now that living a stressful life is murder on your creativity. Maybe some songwriters can produce when they are worried and under stress, but I'd be willing to bet that many of you find your songwriting slipping to the "back burner" whenever things get rough. If there's a pile of bills that need to be paid, a fast growing lawn that needs to be mowed, a crisis in the family that needs to be dealt with, then it's almost impossible to sit down and write a song!

Sometimes we need to stop and put things into perspective. Are the times we live in the worst of times? If you were to travel back in time to the mid 1800's, what would you have to deal with? How about the Civil War, Indian wars, robber barons, soaring crime, child labor, slavery, diseases, famine, poverty, and religious and political chaos?

Indeed, there are bad things going on around us all the time, and many times, we have to deal with them directly. How is it that some people seem to stagger under the pressure, and even "go under," while others seem to keep smiling and "roll with the punches." They feel the pain of personal tragedies, to be sure, but they keep going, and maintain a positive mental attitude.

If you could maintain an optimistic attitude during hard times, if you could remain convinced that in spite of the storms raging around you, that all was well, it would have a positive affect on your life and your musical endeavors. You would be able to press on and accomplish what you want with your music, and not let "life" stop you. How many people do you know who wish they could devote themselves to their art, but "life got in the way?" How many times have you been tempted to give it all up in the midst of difficulties?

There are days when I feel as though I could conquer the world with my music. I believe that I can make a living doing what I love, and brighten the lives of countless people. Then the car breaks down, an unexpected bill comes in the mail, our studio dog, Buddy Rogers, gets sick and needs to go to the vet, and finances get tight. "Well, that's it." I begin to think, "Time to go get a real job. What made me think I could do this? I need to be responsible." It's during those periodic tough times that I need to maintain the right attitude.

We all have to deal with the stress-producing annoyances of everyday life. Then there are the truly tragic life events, such as the death of a loved one, or a personal crisis such as a hurting marriage, a wandering child, a grave illness, etc. How can we deal realistically with these things, and maintain a positive attitude? Can we avoid becoming cynical and bitter? Can we continue to be creative?

What kind of adversities have you had to endure? Sheryl and I have some dear friends who recently lost their home in a fire. I can't think of too many things more disastrous than that! Maybe you've dealt with a burglary, or a stolen car. Perhaps you've experienced one of the greatest heartaches of all, losing a loved one. I don't need to present a long list; you know a calamity when you experience it.

Perhaps you've never really gone through anything that dreadful, and you wonder what would happen if you did? Would you crumble? Would you handle it well?

Some folks seem to have an "inner strength" that allows them to handle nearly any situation that life throws at them. Sometimes a calamity is so great that they momentarily seem to lose their composure, but they soon regain their spirit of calm confidence. Does this mean they don't feel the pain? Of course not! The difference lies in how the pain is dealt with.

Take as an example the lives of two famous men from the 19th century: Mark Twain and P.T. Barnum. If you have a chance, you would greatly benefit from a study of the lives of these men. Both were famous, both experienced tremendous ups and downs in their lives. What did they go through and how did they handle it?

Twain lost his wife. So did Barnum. As a devoted husband, I cannot imagine a greater tragedy. Both men invested in businesses that failed. Twain, in spite of his fame and abilities as a writer and speaker, ended up bitter and in financial trouble, while Barnum bounced back, prospered and eventually remarried. What was the difference?

Barnum had a faith in a power greater than himself. He was a religious man, a devout Universalist. Although you might not believe in God the same way as Barnum, and your religious views may differ, the key is faith.

Not everyone goes to church (although more people go to church than the American media would have you to believe) but over 90% of Americans profess a belief in God. Having faith in God (a power greater than yourself) enables you to survive and even prosper in any situation. Everything that you are, everything you do will survive. You can keep writing and performing, you can continue following the creative muse. You may have to lay it aside for a time to deal with a setback, but you won't be defeated, and you'll always come back to do what you love, and are compelled to do.

If you find yourself weighed down with the stresses of life, if you find that you are not writing, not creating, losing your desire to share your work with the world, remember how P.T. Barnum handled the anxieties that came into his life. He had faith in God, and believed that all would be well. He believed that God had a benevolent plan, and this helped him put the tragedies of life into perspective. This faith in a kind and compassionate God enabled him to keep a positive, optimistic attitude. He knew that blessings often looked like setbacks at first. Faith made it possible for him to get through the setbacks without becoming bitter and stressed out.

Faith in the God who provides order and stability in the universe will enable you to weather the storms of life. God will overcome evil with good. It may be hard to believe when you are under stress, or dealing with a devastating situation, and it takes some practice to fully adopt this mind-set, but the results are worth it.

Where is your faith? Find your faith and you will find the power that will carry you as you pursue your dreams.

A short bio:
Leon and Sheryl Olguin are the owners of S.O.L.O. Productions, a music production and digital media company, founded in 1990.

Sheryl Olguin: Sheryl is a performing songwriter with three independent releases and several published and recorded tunes to her credit. She has an extensive background in digital media. She led strategic Internet initiatives at Harris Corp, and later was responsible for the interactive digital TV demonstrations on the Harris/PBS DTV Express nationwide tour to promote digital television.

Leon Olguin: Leon is an arranger, producer, and recording engineer with two independent instrumental releases and numerous published and recorded compositions to his credit. He's a classically trained pianist with a BA in music theory and composition. He's had extensive experience as a studio musician, live performer, and music minister/director. His song "White as Snow" reached the status of classic worship song faster than any other song in the history of contemporary Christian music.

You can learn more about S.O.L.O. Productions, and about our studio, by visiting us at

Back to top

Help For Newcomers
Help for Newcomers
Helpful Resources
Helpful Resources
Regular Columnists
Music Reviews
Services Offered
About the  Muse's Muse
About Muse's Muse
Subscribe to The Muse's News, free monthly newsletter for songwriters
with exclusive articles, copyright & publishing advice, music, website & book reviews, contest & market information, a chance to win prizes & more!

Join today!

Created & Maintained
by Jodi Krangle


1995 - 2016, The Muse's Muse Songwriting Resource. All rights reserved.

Read The Muse's Muse Privacy Statement