self evaluation

Someone was asking about self-evaluation on a songwriting board. Do you do it, are you honest with yourself?

IMO, critical self-evaluation is critical to any artist. If it's done in the right way. No point in putting yourself down if you don't sound like an opera singer in your first voice lesson. There needs to be an understanding of process. Process is like... moving forward because you've built the foundation to move forward... and often we don't know we're going to move forward, but if we keep building the foundation... suddenly we will be a step further on the path.

There's little story I often tell my students... about the stone cutter. In the way olden days before things like ProTools, cell phones, and electric coffee grinders, folks used to make their tools out of stone. The stone cutter is banging one stone (the hammer) against another stone, to cut an edge. On the one-thousandth blow, the stone splits, revealing a straight & sharp perfect edge. The stonecutter knows it's not that one-thousandth blow that cut the stone, but all the blows that went before.

Attending music conferences has been for me the most effective way to access my current place on the path towards being a recognized, professional songwriter with cuts & placements. The first conference, I just went and soaked it all in. One would you think you would be demoralized by all the talent and all the excellent music... but somehow it's inspiring. I came away knowing more than when I had arrived, and with more specific ideas on what I needed to do to get further down the path. The second conference, 2006, was even better - perhaps because I was 'better' - knew more, was more honest, could clearly see my strengths and identify my weaknesses. Again, I came away with a clear idea what just what I would have to do in order to get further along the path.

One thing I strongly believe -- and perhaps because I've been a student of singing for 17 years and have sung everything from folk songs at coffee houses to operas at opera houses... is that an artist must always be growing - that is actually the journey. Getting a part, or publishing a book, or placing a song is very nice and part of the experience. But it's actually the doing of the work and the knowledge that you're better at it today than you were last year that is the motivating factor.

I'd say I'm somewhere in the middle between rank amateur & professional composer. Determined that there is a craft to be learned and that I have the ability to learn it. Totally aware that that learning is going to be a process spread over several years and then some. Totally fine with that, knowing where I want to go and slowly taking the steps along that road. Aware that there has been some recognition of my work from the public as well as the pros. Aware that I have further to go. Part of the business of songwriting to me is participating in several songwriting boards and passing along what I have learned. Making connections with other writers & artists is very meaningful to me and definitely something I want to continue. Those connections & the sharing of knowledge, support & creative energy is half the reason I'm here.

I've performed one heck of a lot - started singing in choirs at 6 and won't stop until the final curtain - and I've sung all kinds of music as well as playing piano, guitar, flute, piccolo, trumpet, harmonica, recorder. My lyric writing & my singing are my greatest strengths at the moment. Translating a knowledge of a lifetime of performing music into composing & arranging music and then producing it effectively is what I'm working on now.

Personally I know I'm the typical absent-minded, befuddled creative person. I have no energy for housework or income tax or paperwork or laundry, but I'll stay up til 3 am endlessly listening to the mix of a new song and tweaking it over and over... cause that's where my heart is and what makes my days on this earth worthwhile.

How about you?

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