tearing down walls

In my work with ‘shy singers’ it seems to me that we often come to a place where the barrier between the person and the voice is ‘visible’. We start talking about it. It’s like, this medieval-thick wall, three or four feet deep, that stands between the singer and the singing. I know this wall very well. It took me about six or seven years of voice training to be able to see it. It was the slow growth of my conscious awareness (and a wonderfully intuitive teacher) that gave me the eyes to comprehend the limitations I had integrated. Those limitations were like big bricks in the wall that kept me prisoner for so long.

We can discuss why that wall is there, I’m not sure if that’s a necessary thing, but it’s good to think about it and ponder it. It seems to me it is a conglomeration of experience, precedence, programming, self-identity, and self-preservation. At some point, for some reason, we needed to protect ourselves. At some point, we felt that we were in danger. And so we added a brick to the wall. Each experience assisted us in building the wall stronger.

On our creative journey, the closer we get to breaking through that wall, the stronger that thing fights us for its existence. It’s typically at this point where we start thinking about stopping. We’ve likely been struggling with keeping a commitment to practicing our artform… now, with the wall in our face, we feel like giving up entirely.

The voice in our head is very active. “Who am I kidding anyway? Why does it have to be so hard? I understand intellectually what is required, but it feels like the body is not cooperating. Everything I do is terrible. Perhaps I’m just not cut out to be a singer (actor, writer, painter, composer, etc).”

What I’ve learned, from my own process, and from sharing in the journey of my students, is that this is a major turning point. This is the time when the choice is made to go forward, and change… or stay as we are. It’s a tough moment. Often we feel grief or tremendous reluctance. It’s always hard for me as a teacher when I see someone face this wall… and decide to turn away. But I know I have to accept that they aren’t ready. Whatever they are feeling and thinking becomes a ‘stop’ sign. And I have to yield to their choice.

Yet, I have experienced, time and time again, what happens when we make the choice to keep going. It’s scary because we are going to walk a new path. We are going to go someplace we have never been. But it’s also a slow, easy path, made for walking, made for enjoying the scenery. If we trust the process, if we have faith that our creativity and passion for music (or whatever art form we are pursuing) means something, we will make progress. And, in time, when we look back, we realize that… the voice we found was really just around the corner from that ‘stop’ sign. We realize… if we had given up, we never would have discovered it. Our willingness to explore the possibilities was a catalyst for changing our programming.

I picture this emancipation like this… I am walking in a forest of dead trees. There is no light where I am, but I can see it ahead of me. It’s only a few feet away. All I have to do is keep walking. But the ego, the thing inside of me that feeds on negativity, the thing inside of me that has a vested interest in me staying where I am, it manifests as little monsters that hang on my legs as I try to move forward. They shout all the typical blurts I tell myself (‘who are you kidding, you are too old, nobody cares, what’s the difference, it’s too hard, you aren’t good enough’). I struggle to keep going. Finally I reach the light and it shines brightly on me. The little monsters fall away with mouths wide open in surprise. I walk into the light and I am in a fragrant meadow. It is warm and welcoming. I wonder why I resisted coming here.


Kirk Mathew Gatzka said...

I truly like your honesty. It's so refreshing. I have hit many walls in being a "solitary' songwriter. I usually use my wife as my barometer as to how my songs are coming across. I play very little with others around but record and share with family and some friends. That's where I get my feedback from. But performing in front of others is a wall for me. Anxiety plus! Thanks for your inspiring writing on this blog. Just plain thanks!


Vikki said...

Hi Kirk - thanks for your lovely note. I'm glad you find value in my blog! What kind of music do you write?

Kirk Mathew Gatzka said...

Hi Vikki,

Thanks for the reply.

I write mostly from guitar accompaniment. Folk Rock and some Rock and a little Country. I am new to lead playing so I do some instrumentals also.

Love songs, songs about the human condition, some stories. I enjoy a good inspiration once in a while when the song writes itself, but those are rare.

My roots are the 60's and early 70's, showing my age a bit. I also do covers of songs from that era and some country tunes as well.

My family is very supportive in listening and telling me about my songs from their perspective. My wife says I should try and sell some of them. I don't score or do tabulature, just chord progression, melody and lyrics by ear.