Break the freaking rules.
The critical voice in your head probably knows a lot of rules.
Rules that, when broken, will probably reveal some light.
Break them. Break them good!
Rule #1: You have to be doing "big stuff" all the time.
Rule #1 broken: No, you don't. You need to be doing the real stuff--engaging with people, doing the best you can do on any given day. That's it.
We don't *always* need to be doing the big concerts, having the "big career," which by the way, doesn't exist in the same form it did even 10 years ago. It's changed.
New Rule: Make your best art as often as is appropriate for you.
Rule #2: You have to suffer to make art.
Rule #2 broken: Nobody actually likes a martyr. So quit beating yourself up for following rule #1 and taking crappy opportunities because you "need the money" or "maybe it'll lead to something else." You know what comes from low pay? More low pay. And more bills. And a reputation that you'll put up with a lot of crap. Don't contribute to the Wal-Mart economy of music and start requesting an appropriate fee. (Notice I didn't say "high fee." I said appropriate.)
New rule: Figure out
which gigs make you happy, which make you proud, and which earn you money, and sing those.
Rule #3: Turning down a gig means they'll never call you again.
Rule #3 broken: Not necessarily, and if you turn down one gig and they never call you again, good for you! Do you really want to work with fickle presenters? You should be yelling out "NO!" right now, and if you're not, refer to Rule #2.
New rule: Politely turn down gigs that don't fit new rule #2.
Rule #4: Teaching is something musicians have to do to get by.
Rule #4 broken: Teaching is active advocacy for quality of life, for musical education, and continuance of history, culture, language, and beauty. It's ART! (C'mon, do you think this scientist only ever did STEM in school? Think there was no STEAM? Yeah right.) If you're just putting in hours while teaching, you're doing yourself, your career, this industry, and all other teachers a disservice. Get passionate about it, make it part of your portfolio career and figure out how to help your students learn singing/music/theory/piano/violin/composition/sight-singing/etc. or just go home.
New Rule: Teach if you can, and if you can, do it with passion, however if you can't, find something else that suits your skills better.
Rule #5: Starving Artist: Musicians don't ever have any money.
Rule #5 broken: musicians do make money. Just like lots of people make money--and just like lots of people, musicians spend a lot of money. (Someone said recently that musicians are fantastic money managers because so many of us manage with so little. Now *that's* a fascinating perspective.) HOW we spend our money is up to us--so if you think you will never have any money as a musician, make a budget, check your spending, and make small adjustments until your income and expenditures are in better balance.
New Rule: musicians do make money, some money is earned from music, some money is earned from other activities, and with thought and awareness, we can manage our money well and someday even retire. Imagine that!