How to lose interest in things you like

Discussion in 'OFF-TOPICS - General Musings' started by MartinH., Dec 30, 2018.

  1. MartinH.

    MartinH. Senior Member

    Jun 16, 2018
    In another thread @Jimmy Hellfire and @Parsifal666 shared two anecdotes that I thought are very interesting and deserve their own thread:

    This hit a nerve because a short while ago I talked to a friend about drawing and how I've comepletely lost interest in it, and for a long time I had a view on it like it was a "sport" and competing with others motivated me to some degree, but ultimately I completely lost interest. Another thing that I have more or less lost interest in recently is making games. I really wanted to make a good videogame, but my standards for "good" are apparently higher than tose of most people, and thus are impossible to meet for myself at my skill level. Gamedev is ridiculously hard and you need insane levels of motivation to get through the amount of work required to get anything remotely noteworthy done in that market. I don't have what it takes for that.
    One of the competitive things that I still do enjoy is playing a certain military shooter online with a friend. We're equally good at it, and when we play together we fairly often (meaning significantly more than what would be the statistical average if it was random) a) win the match with our team and b) place among the top 3 of the 16 player team-leaderboard for the match. It's the only kind of game where I'm good enough to get that level of validation and it's also the only multiplayer game that I still enjoy. I think this has to do with it being one of the last competitive multiplayer games that has no balanced matchmaking system, so the frame of reference is always the same (a random group of players). If you always play against people matched to your skill level (like in most other games), you will never feel like you are getting better, but if you are always up against a random group of players, you will see yourself improve as your skill rises above the skill of the average player. It's a very different frame of reference to "just play" and notice how you're getting better, than to "compete", and always be faced with people as good or better than you, and having a clear view on the top competitors that perform on a level that you likely will never reach. A bit like how it's easy to be "good at drawing" when you're still in school and your frame of reference is a class of random kids who mostly don't even have an interest in it, and it looks a whole lot different once you're at an art college and everyone is at least on your level. Nothing changes for you and your skill but if feels a lot different to be confronted with a different frame of reference, at least for me.

    I am interested in the mechanics by which people lose interest in things and how exactly that plays out. The main reason for that is that it has happend for several things for me in the past, and I'm starting to feel it for music too.
    I've learned more about composing this year than in the 3 years before combined, but I'm also in some way less interested in making music and feel my own limitations more clearly than ever, to the point where I've started to consider just giving up. Have you been in such a situation yourself and how have you come back from it? What's the science behind all of this? How does this stuff work?
    To the two gentlemen that I quoted above: can you share any more details on how exactly it came about that you lost interest? I know the competitive thinking aspect is only one of many ways for how one can lose intrinsic motivation. For example it is often reported and (afaik) reproducible in studies that people who like doing a thing without payment get less likely to do it for free again once they got paid to do it. Frankly everytime I see someone who does any creative task professionally (makes a living from it) and still enjoys it, I feel like I've seen a miracle that I just can't comprehend.

    Does anyone else have similar stories to share? Or even stories of how they learned to see and overcome such pitfalls?
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  2. Uiroo

    Uiroo New Member

    Nov 6, 2018
    Well I stopped playing and studying drums because of too much self pressure, sports attitute and lack of interest.
    Since then i started to take composing seriously, and it feels completely different.
    It was a hard lesson, but what i learned is: If anything I do feels the way drumming did, I need to step back, pause, and find out what i'm doing wrong.

    I think stuff like that happens when you do things for the wrong reasons.
    MartinH. likes this.
  3. Parsifal666

    Parsifal666 I don't even own a DAW, I'm just a troll.

    Sep 7, 2015
    E. YeeHaw, Indiana
    When I chose, later in my career, to start practicing fusion licks by (genius) guitar freeks like Holdsworth and Gambale, I found my practice schedule went from 5-6 hours to 10-11 hours a day (the latter hadn't been a thing for me since I first started playing. The burn out was inevitable...but now that I'm writing about it I see I obliviously left things out:

    One of the things that drove me to such Spartan gruelty was the fact that at the time I was getting kind of burnt out on the classic metal/guitar thing (mostly through Facebook oversaturation). I had started out with that whole Blackmore/Uli Roth/Tony Iommi/Schenker thing in the early 80s and loved it like nobody's business. I actually spent my time homeless (2 years in Orlando, Florida, sucked as bad as you can imagine) sleeping with my guitar and one of those old crappy tape recorders to listen to the music of Sabbath, Purple, Montrose, Ozzy.

    Once I realized my dream and released a couple of classic metal albums I was blown away by all the people on Facebook who were also into what I loved and was doing, shared videos of their bands playing classic metal, shared songs I'd heard eight trillion times since I was like and complete bombardment. I started listening to and studying more the music I studied and loved at the University: LVB, Mahler, Wagner, Bruckner, Richard Strauss, plus my film faves like Rozsa and Goldsmith. And that was like the semi-final nail in the coffin: Rock and Metal are Pop music (besides the "I'm so Metal" protestations) thus recycling mostly basic chords and progressions, relying too much on young faces paired with powerful producers whom were typically responsible for way more of the final musical product than they'd let on (this last has become de rigueur practice, especially prevalent this century). There are exceptions, as the Prog thing exists and you can sometimes find some interesting twists in that genre; however, the exception proves the rule: most Prog bands are simply Rock musicians who want to show off their chops before pushing any musical envelopes. A musical dead end.

    I grasped in desperation at fusion, but almost solely because of the technical challenge. The two listed causes slammed a stake right through my metal heart. At the same time, the studies I was doing of the composers listed above really motivated my compositional muse, and I've written scads of music since (which got better and better after I put down the guitar). I mean, I'd graduated from University with my Music degree because I wanted a back up in case the guitar couldn't pay my way. All my scholastic stuff helped to back me up big time in my compositional endeavors, and today I see that one of the best things I ever did was put away guitar and Pop music.

    So, this was a positive story :)
  4. macmac

    macmac Active Member

    Sep 10, 2015
    On the flip side, I think that ^^ also pushes you to hone in and get even better at your craft. By seeing the works done by your peers, it can 'force' you (so to speak) to expand your ideas and skillset, think outside the box perhaps, and unleash what ideas may have been dormant until then, because until then you hadn't yet been 'challenged' to do so. (I experienced that in art courses).

    I once had a unique teacher in college (not art) whose tests focused much on making you think, rather than the typical answers you could have looked up in your textbook. (He was a firm believer that kids were not raised to think, versus rote). Many of the students dropped out, but it made me want to dig into the depths of my mind. I did, and was all the better for it. (I felt it also fine-tuned my intuition). Looking back, he was the best teacher of my school years (and classes). There was also a teacher in high school who was similar—she was tough but with a good heart, and something about her just made you want to do well in there.
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2018
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  5. wst3

    wst3 my office these days

    Apr 2, 2010
    Pottstown, PA
    I've been fortunate in many ways (don't worry, as always the opposite is equally true), some were not immediately obvious - no surprise there.

    Anyway, a series of events, connected only by the fact that they included me, dissuaded me from viewing all things musical as a competition of any kind. Not to say others won't frame your musical endeavors as a competition, just that you don't have to share that view.

    For example, my best friend sat first chair while I sat third chair for the six years we played together in bands. He was the better player, and while I challenged him regularly, I never did attain first chair. It simply wasn't in the cards. So challenging him was less about challenging him, and more about challenging me to improve my skills. Pretty mature for a kid who could not yet legally drive eh? How did I get there?

    What made him "better"? He probably practiced more than I did, and he may have had a natural gift or two.

    No, what made him objectively or subjectively better in the eyes of others? Ah... good question, and one that was answered for me by our band director I think my sophomore year - there were certain specific qualities that he could measure - how well he could sight read (actually I usually "won" that specific test), how well could he hit a specific pitch (we played French Horn, and it is frighteningly easy to play the wrong note!), and of course how quickly could he play a specific passage or scale. Tone is purely subjective, but even I would have had to give him the nod in that category, if it were a category.

    In this way, our directors taught us three things:
    1) "compete" only with ourselves, use others only as yardsticks
    2) use only purely objective measures for this competition
    3) technical mastery of an instrument is only one aspect of musicianship, and sufficient technical mastery for the task at hand is, well, sufficient.

    And for whatever reason this message penetrated my adolescent mind, and stayed there.

    Even more miraculous, I was able to carry this lesson over into other areas of my life. And later, into my approach to teaching guitar.

    I teach, from day one for my teen-aged students, that music is not a competition, there is no best musician unless one lays out specific, measurable criteria. And when you do that you discover that these competitions are not terribly useful for anything other than measuring your own progress.

    Hey, we all want to play fast. Doesn't matter the instrument, doesn't matter the genre, playing fast and flashy is tempting, and sometimes a necessary part of mastering the technique - for some specific task anyway. The trick is not to obsess, since that leads to burnout no matter the topic.

    I have had several students who were obsessed with playing fast. In my subjective opinion they were not terribly musical, they could copy passages from all the speed kings, but that was about it.More to the point, they all stopped playing. Every single one of them. And almost none of them ever started back. That is sad, because these kids had some serious chops.

    Me? I am far from the fastest player out there, but people enjoy listening to me play, or playing with me, so I must be doing something right. And I am still playing, some 53 years after I first picked up the guitar. And I still enjoy it.

    For the last 14 months or so it has been more of a struggle to play, music is how I met my late wife, and music was central to our lives together. It has only been in the last month or so that I started playing again. And might I add, if you don't play for a year do not expect it to be painless, and do not expect to pick up where you left off!!!!

    But that's the key, I did find my way back, and I do still enjoy it. I've even started practicing again - not regularly by any stretch, some days I just can't do it, but on the days that I can it is helpful.

    All that to say that I was incredibly fortunate to have really wonderful teachers who taught the whole student, not just the musician, and circumstances that prevented me from being "the best" regardless.
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  6. Jimmy Hellfire

    Jimmy Hellfire Senior Member

    Jun 28, 2015
    Competiton is an interesting one to me. Be it against real opponents, or against an idealized image one has in their heads. It's of very shallow and very limited value. If you're not either a complete blockhead or a sociopath, your interest is bound to diminish if your main motivation to do things is the competition against others and surviving evaluation.

    It's a trap that's very easy to fall into, especially in our today's society. You already touched upon it: competition provides you with a frame of reference, which for a limited amount of time results in development – in absence of better and more long-lived reference frames.

    What made me lose interest in things I used to love – be it playing the guitar, practicing martial arts or composing music – on a deeper level was the subconscious realization that I'm not buying into the fairytale as much as I'd have to.

    By that I mean the whole perpetuated idea, especially in the western world, that it's desirable, natural, right and good for all of us to compete, hustle, strive to overtrump the other person and evaluate your own worth solely by your productivity. That, combined with the whole "in the sweat of your brow", protestant work ethic or whatever you wanna call it kind of thing. If you're not shaping your life around this, you're actually doing it wrong, are lazy and perhaps a burden, possibly even a danger for others. It's insufferable nonsense, designed to take advantage of people.

    By subscribing to this belief, you're in reality subscribing to living a life driven by fear. Because it's always an effort in trying to prove yourself. That's a fear of scarcity, and of being left behind, not giving it your best, not standing the comparison, being a lesser person, possibly even being ridiculed or rejected. And fear kills movement, flexibility, breathing and thinking, and makes you a colorless, drab and ridiculous person – the types you're surrounded by every day everywhere you go.

    In reality, adopting this competitive and sporting kind of thinking means constantly fighting and trying to escape the feeling of inadequacy. That's what it really is deep down on a very elementary level. That's also why nothing is ever really good enough – no matter how good you get, how much money you made or how many people think God shat you right out of his bumhole.

    But when you're dealing with things that are so holistic and human in nature like music – it becomes way too coomplex in its demands not only on your intellect, but also your character, to be doing it driven by unease. It's just too hard to do. Our body has ways to clearly tells us: You're doing it wrong. Our mind does, too.

    I had to find my own ways around this and discover better intrinsic motivations for pursuing the things I love. It's a very interesting topic, but I don't wanna turn this into a blog post or an inspirational bullshit marathon.
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2018
  7. givemenoughrope

    givemenoughrope Senior Member

    Aug 11, 2009
    Los Angeles
    With an instrument, I found that constant practice and only taking gigs that yielded zero artistic satisfaction meant burn out. I practiced tenor sax every waking hour for about a year (?...honestly, I forget) and then just quit (and coasted through gigs and tours). Of course, I got into guitar and Cubase. I heard two players in the same week that turned head around. Also saw the worst-looking horn on the wall at Sam Ash on Sunset which sounded just incredible. Talked them way down and dumped my old horn on ebay. Now, I'm back in...but no weddings or cover bands ever again.

    interesting thread
    MartinH. likes this.
  8. OP

    MartinH. Senior Member

    Jun 16, 2018
    Good to see so many people showing interest in the mechanics of losing interest! Ironic, isn't it?
    Thanks to everyone who replied! I think there must be neurological explanations for all the behavioral quirks we all experience, and finding out how your own brain works is one of the great challenges of life imho. Science is just scratching the surface of understanding how the brain works, and evidently not everone's brain works remotely the same way. I'm collecting these stories like puzzle pieces, put them in relation to my own experiences and hope to gain better insight into how my brain works in hopes of getting a hang of better predicting and/or manipulating outcomes of actions.

    After I made this thread I saw a video that feels like another solid piece of the puzzle:

    So based on your anecdotes and the video above, I now have the theory that it is pretty much possible to kill interest in any hobby/craft, if you just apply it in a boring and unrewarding way for long enough. E.g. if you like playing the guitar and switch over to practicing scales for 10 hours a day, no wonder anyone stops liking to play the guitar.

    I thought if I like composing music, I must like it more if I was better at composing music, and so I switched to watching hours of tutorials and doing a long transcription and mockup excercise for practice. In consequence I think my enjoyment of composing went down, even though my skill went up. I guess I must take a step back, find out which aspects of composing I find the most rewarding, and focus on those for a while, and see if that can rekindle the joy of doing it. Since as a hobbyist I have no pressure to get better at it, maintaining the interest in it should be my top priority.

    When learning to draw, one of the most beneficial skills for getting better at it quickly is to minimize the time between drawing something and seeing the flaws in it, so you train your brain to zero in on your flaws. If that's all you do and there's not enough to counter-balance that, it can easily turn into a bad experience. I've overfocused on technical aspects and completely lost touch with drawing having any meaning of "expression" for myself. And as far as I can tell, among top artists it is very rare to find anyone who actually likes the pictures they draw/paint. They may like the process of making them, they might put up a "facade" for professional considerations, but secretly - and often openly - they dislike their own work. If I see someone who is exceptionally good and seems to legitimatly like their own work, I get jelous to the point of being salty, which is very unusual for me.

    It's really interesting to see this being such a common thing. If only this knowledge was common enough so that we could warn people before they get sucked into that rabbithole.

    That sounds spot on, thank you!

    Please, don't be shy, I'd love to read your thoughts on this! I'm sure others would as well. I know @Waywyn even made his own blog about related topics:

    I really struggle with finding intrinsic motivations that work for me. I only have been really passionate about what I'm doing once or twice in my life, and I'm unsuccessfully chasing to recreate that state ever since...
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  9. ghostnote

    ghostnote Vincit qui se vincit.

    Nov 3, 2011
    It's dopamine. Plain and simple. Go to work and you'll have money to buy things which will satisfy you. Work your ass off on the guitar without any recognition or money, what will you get? Right. Dead end. Talent is worth nothing without social interactions.

    Push and Pull.
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  10. RAdu

    RAdu New Member

    Apr 3, 2018
    I lost interest in drawing too, even if I was pretty good compared to others in art school. maybe the lack of focus of what I wanted to do with it and a target is the cause. With music it doesn't happen because I built myself a "path", an action plan to get where I want to.
    MartinH. likes this.
  11. Shiirai

    Shiirai Resident Crow

    Oct 11, 2018
    I am personally coping with a psychological reflex that makes me utterly unable to find motivation for the things I actually really want to do. It's a form of self-sabotage.

    I also fear time and always feel like I'll never become good enough within an acceptable timeframe. I've started anti-depressants which help, and therapy is also doing a world of good.

    I still remember a time when I could focus and lose myself in my work and my art. I remember always having a vision for a 'product'. It's not the act of playing the guitar which was fulfilling to me, but the song I'd eventually write and play for people that gave me that feeling.

    I'm really in no position to talk, but I believe you should identify *what* it is about what you want to be doing that you enjoy. You need to be critical of what exactly makes you happy.

    Adam Neely once said something that really stuck with me and has been an immense help in figuring out exactly what it is I want to be doing at any point in time.

    Just ask yourself 'Do I like this?' while you're doing something. The answer may surprise you.
  12. blougui

    blougui Senior Member

    Nov 1, 2013
    Thanks for all these intimate, personal stories. Fascinating... (I relate to them heavily)
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  13. Scott Moran

    Scott Moran New Member

    Jul 25, 2018
    This resonates with me. I played guitar by ear for 20ish years, never learned to read music or theory. I loved just sitting down with it and making stuff up. It always bothered me, though, that I was just sitting there playing music without accompaniment. After hearing Johnny Marr's work on some of Zimmer's work, I had a revelation and thought "I'm going to make my own music for accompaniment with virtual instruments."

    I purchased a DAW and Albion One and approached it the same way I did guitar. I just sat down and started making stuff up. I was damn proud of the first couple of pieces but thought to make better music I needed to, 1) know theory, 2) know how to play piano. I started working on both and I love playing the piano, practicing 2 hours every night after 9 hours of work.

    Here comes the motivation problem. The more I learn the more inadequate I feel. There's just so much to learn and I'm not a spring chicken. It's like I've set up an ideal in my head of what I want my music to sound like, but I won't get there for 10 more years. I can sit down and make a chord progression that's much more interesting and complex than I did when I knew nothing, but when I think about just making up a simple melody and putting it on top I'm not satisfied. So the end result is nothing gets done.

    Not sure how to break out of this. I love music and love the idea of making music, but I don't have the chops to make the kind of music I want.
    MartinH. likes this.
  14. OP

    MartinH. Senior Member

    Jun 16, 2018
    Ever heard of the concept of "the gap"?

    +1, keep 'em coming!

    If you don't mind I'd like to hear more about that. It's ok if it's in the context of game-design, you mentioned elsewhere that that's what you mainly do. Might even be more relatable for me than music.

    Good luck with your recovery!
    Scott Moran likes this.
  15. Shiirai

    Shiirai Resident Crow

    Oct 11, 2018
    Heh. The man in the video sounds a lot like a younger Woody Allen. And it resonated too. I never really looked at it that way. I need to think on this.

    Sure, I'll probably have some time in the coming few days. Drop me a message.
  16. OP

    MartinH. Senior Member

    Jun 16, 2018
    A controversial youtuber once said (I'm paraphrasing from memory) "Having a clear goal and generating evidence that you are moving towards it, is what generates positive emotions".

    If one is capable of doing this, I think it is a solid strategy. Maybe I need to focus a little more on that, since I actually do have one goal for this year. But I'm not saying what it is, because I've read of a study where people who e.g. said "I'm gonna go to the gym" where less likely to follow through, because their true goal was an "identity goal" (e.g. wanting to be a gym-going fit person and being seen as that by others), and merely making the announcement gave them part of the emotional reward they were expecting, thus making it less likely to actually put in the work.

    Don't overthink it too much. It's way easier to analyze/criticise, than to create. The number of people who create on a higher level than they can analyze - and thus still think their own stuff is the best thing since sliced bread - must be extremely rare. Or they suffer from the Dunning Kruger effect.
    In other words, if this was some kind of "natural law of being an artist", it says "you'll likely always hate your own work, no matter how good you get", because I don't see the evidence out there that a significant number of artists ever "gets over the gap". I don't think that's a terribly helpful or motivating way to look at a creative career.

    Thanks, will do!

    Is that really so? I used to be more socially connected and did receive validation for creative things I made back then, but it always felt a bit hollow because I knew that they didn't have any expertise in the things I made, and even a really really bad piece of art is like magic to most people who have zero experience making something like it.
    I ended up only showing things that I make privately to usually less than half a dozen of people.
    I'm also not so sure posting things online for "likes" is a healthy thing in general. It's very addictive for sure, but maybe that doesn't neccessarily mean it's "good".
    I might have missed your point, if so, please elaborate. I'm also open to just being wrong.
  17. ghostnote

    ghostnote Vincit qui se vincit.

    Nov 3, 2011
    Just put the word business somewhere into that sentence.

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