the "honesty' movement is laziness

Yeah, I read the article on "radical honesty" in Esquire... and then saw some songwriting gurus run with that idea. "Your music sucks," they want to say, thinking it would be refreshing to just tell people to forget it and focus on their day job.

I think one of the things that has helped me the most in my fledgling songwriting/composing career is that that, as a student of voice over the past 18 years... I had to learn to hear, understand and incorporate feedback into what I was doing, in the moment, in every coaching session. In singing, "before's" and "after's" are a big part of training, because it's the difference between the two that teaches you. If you listen and are able to make the changes suggested, over time, your "after" becomes your "before" and you move to a new level.

I have been teaching voice for 11 years myself. As a teacher it is my passionate goal to support while assisting to improve. That doesn't mean I'm not "honest". But I truly believe that anyone can pretty much do anything if they are willing to listen and do the work. So if someone asks me to review music that has production issues or composition issues, you can bet I will strive to be both honest and respectful, knowing that my feedback could assist them in their growth as an artist, if it is given with the right spirit.

There is a huge difference between criticism (this sucks) and critique (okay, here's a place to start, there's some good elements in what you've done here, I'm going to zero in on a couple of things I think would really help).

Criticism is disquised as honesty because it takes no time or consideration to be a critic. Criticism denies the process of being a creative person and growing over time. Criticism is lazy because it's so easy to just say 'you suck' and 'haven't got a hope.' Criticism says "what you are now is all you will ever be". Criticism says, 'what's the point of striving to be more than who you are today?"

Critique takes time, patience and knowledge. Critique means you are being a mentor, a teacher. You are sharing your time & expertise & trying to help someone else. Critique says, "if you listen, if you are willing to learn, if you are willing to do the work, and go the extra mile, and perservere... anything is possible."

"Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all." ~Dale Carnegie

I think there is a huge difference between "being told you are great" when you are not, and being told "you need to work on it, and here's the specific things to focus on right now." Let's not confuse the two.

I am living proof that perserverence pays off. No one told me I was great, but no one told me it was hopeless, either. I knew I had a lot to learn (still do). It took me eight years of vocal training to find my voice and twelve years to be able to sing without fear. Yes, I could have given up. Yes, I could have done something else. But I'd lived years of my adult life without music and never ever want to go back to that dark place again. My vocal education was also a healing journey that was a catalyst for growth. As I found my voice, I found my Self.

Five years ago, I started songwriting, thinking I'd take the music industry by storm. Wrong. My meandering, long, abstract songs were returned again and again. I could have given up. Yeah, I raged against the industry and said all the typical things that songwriters say when their work is rejected. I went to the TAXI Road Rally in 2005, and heard lots of not-that-great music and heard some fabulous tracks, too. I went to RR 2006 and chatted with folks I knew from the TAXI forum. I realized that there were folks I knew who were making money as songwriters/composers... in film & tv. They wrote & produced broadcast quality tracks & signed them to music publishers and music libraries.

I knew absolutely nothing about producing music. I had no tools, no skills. But I decided that was what I was going to do. All my early efforts were rejected for various reasons. But I knew what I wanted, I knew that there were tools I needed to get and skills I needed to learn. I set out to get them and learn them. My music was still rejected, but I kept listening, kept working. I signed one track in 2007. In the last six months, I've started getting many more TAXI forwards, and the 5 tracks I signed last week makes... 5 deals and 18 tracks signed so far.

So yeah, my music sucked. My singing sucked. So? So I learned how to make it better. So I set out to get the skills, to grow, to change, to improve. If I can do that, anyone can do that. IF they are willing to admit they have something to learn, that they have not "arrived", that they need to grow. That's my point. That the "honesty" should be resident in the ARTIST.

A true artist marries honesty & humility in their self-assessment, and strive to grow beyond where they are at any given time in their journey... and they are willing to share their knowledge and expertise and compassion with those walking behind them on the path. I'm lucky enough to know artists like that, peers who have helped me grow my Self and my Music to this point. I'm endlessly grateful to them for helping this fledgling singer, songwriter, composer, painter, writer and creative being live the life of her dreams.

creating success

I used to be very scattered and rather naive. Now I'm scattered but focussed. My definition of success used to be pleasing everyone else and living my life according to what I thought they wanted so that they'd be pleased with me. Now I live my own life and my own dream.

In order to do this, I had to look deep inside, figure out my goal, and work steadily at the process of achieving it, over time. Trusting that consistent diligence pays off.

For example:

GOAL: to become the singer I dreamed of being since I was 5 or 6 years old

- even though I was terrified, I finally began to take voice lessons. I almost quit almost weekly for years. As I began to wake up and see how the suit of armour I'd created to protect myself when growing up... was now the 3 feet thick cement tower trapping Me inside... I began to see that the things that limited me in singing limited me in life. Over time, singing lessons became a form of 'voice therapy' for me... healing me from shyness and assisting me to find my Self. After a few years of training I began to teach. As I worked I realized that I was not alone, that there were many other 'shy' people out there, and I realized that perhaps my whole journey had been for the purpose of waking my Self up & finding my voice.... and that I could now be a mentor or a guide to others who wished to do the same. I've been training as a singer for 19 years and teaching for 12. It is very special to be part of someone else's journey for a time, watching them open up, learn, grow.

For example:

GOAL - create income from music placements

- figure out what tools I need in order to create music worthy of placement in film/tv, save up to get them & learn how to use them; figure out what skills I need and find a way to learn them. I focussed my energies on quality (using peer reviews & screener feedback to grow); when I began to get interest in the music from music libraries/publishers, I began to focus on quantity (do songwriting challenges, write for listings, set goals to assist in growing my pitchable cataloque). Right now I continue to work on creating a large number of quality tracks, with the aim of signing multi-song deals... knowing that the deals I sign today will be income 2 or 3 years from now. The aim is to continue with persistence on this path (rinse & repeat), enjoying the journey & the people I meet along the way. The end result will be my music working for me.

Seems to me the way to create success for yourself is to work steadily at something, despite the distractions, doubts, failures that you meet along the way.

falling into the new year, softly

Well, I keep gathering together bits of newsletters from different resources that talk about setting goals (Ariel Hyatt), happy new you (Bob Baker), using StickK to commit to a resolution (Get Rich Slowly), the power of less (Zen Habits). The Voice in my head keeps telling me I'm doing nothing, but this week I've cleared up a backload of emails, answered fan mail, booked myself to attend a couple of events, completed my first track of 2009 (my goal is to write 52), pitched music to a documentary, a music library, and a music supervisor. I've been sick, too. I was posting a link to my blog on something I was writing and I realized... it's been way too long, normally I update at least once a week.

I often seem to veer from extremely productive entity to totally listless sloth. The Voice in my head says I'm more sloth than speeding bullet, but I do seem to manage to accomplish a little in my meandering way. The whole idea of this lifestyle is to be able to enjoy time, to see the sun shining as the wind whips the trees and marvel at the colour of the sky. The whole idea of not working in an office anymore for the rest of my life is to be able to find a little self-made joy in every day, walking my path and doing the things that matter.

The Voice in my head reminds me my bedroom is a mess and that I haven't sorted any paperwork over the holidays like I said I would. I suppose The Voice is afraid I will end up like one of those old ladies with a house full of boxes and papers that line the walls so you can barely walk, useless mathoms collecting decades of dust. The Voice says I am wasting time and not achieving enough, not productive enough, don't exercise enough, don't practice enough.

The Voice kinda reminds me of when I was working and trying to pay off my student loan. I paid something every month, even during the time I was unemployed or underemployed. I had a part time job and I was paying them the specified amount every month... and the credit folks called me at work about my student loan... and I said, "I don't know why you're calling me, I've paid you every month as agreed." And the snarky girl at the other end said, "You're not paying it off fast enough!" @#$&*@)????!! After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I complained that they had called me at work (against the law), and requested that they contact me in writing only. And I did, finally, pay the damn thing off a few years ago, in one lump sum, thanks to a consolidation loan from my bank.

Who is The Voice, if it isn't me? I see it as the conglomeration of all the negative thoughts and vibes and comments that I've experienced in my life. It's the Negative Thinker, the Low Self-Esteem Maintainer, the Perfectionist, the One Who Says I Can't Rise Up and Achieve My Dreams. It is part of me, and I think it's there for me to, first, become aware of it and what it says to me. And, second, to resist it in order to grow. It's the ying to my yang, and is an essential part of me.

One of the many books I found inspiring in my journey is "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway." Pick it up if you can.

"Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising everytime we fall."
~ Confucius