#2 Creative Hack

What stops you from engaging creatively? For many of us, it’s doubt. We worry we won’t be good enough. We anticipate the reaction at the end of the work, and see ourselves failing. Or we get started and find ourselves expecting perfection from every word, note, brushstroke. Frustration builds as we make mistakes, and we stop. The reasons (and excuses) can be many. We may dream of writing that book, or finishing an album, or taking that trip to Italy, but somehow it never starts, or if it does, it fizzles out. Some people might say, that’s proof our dream didn’t matter as much as we thought.

I disagree. I think we avoid, procrastinate or stop because the dream matters. It sounds strange, I know. Shouldn’t the importance of the dream lead us to take action?

Years ago, after a personal stocktaking, I finally recognized that I had wanted to sing since I was five or six years old, but had let that dream die. I’d sung in choirs in my teens, and even tried having a band after leaving school. But I got involved in work and life, let it go, got that full-time office job that paid decent wages, etc etc. When I had the epiphany, when I decided I needed to find my voice, I asked a friend for the name of his singing teacher.

It took me three months to get up the courage to even call. I went to a meeting, he had me sing a couple of scales, we talked. He asked me what my goal was. I said, “I’m just… I just want to explore what I can do.” And then, as an afterthought, almost under my breath, I added, “If I could sing opera, that would be really cool.”

I went to my first lesson and almost didn’t go back. Not because the session wasn’t good. Not because the teacher wasn’t nice. He clearly had knowledge and was encouraging. I almost didn’t show up for the second lesson because… I didn’t want to find out if my dream couldn’t come true. It would be almost better to keep dreaming.

But I went. And each week, I’d wonder why I was going. I’d wonder, who am I kidding. I’d say, they’re just being nice. I’d say, maybe I’m too old to start this now. I kept going, and I kept doubting. I’d resolve to stop and then, I’d feel my whole body almost slump to the floor. ‘If I’m not here to sing, then what is there,’ the tiny me-voice would answer the shouting ‘you’ll never be good enough’ chorus. So I’d go to the next lesson.

On the bus, on the way to the lesson, I’d feel this heavy sense of reluctance. I’d arrive feeling like I didn’t want to sing, what was the point. My teacher would say, ‘just sit on the couch, we’ll sing a few scales.’ Two hours later, I’d be walking on air as I left. Technical exercises, opera arias, vibrating with sound, watching his face light up when I did it right. For a few minutes or hours, I’d believe it was possible. Then the darkness would close in.

To help defeat the doubts I kept a practice journal. When I practiced, I’d write down the date, and what I did. When the negative voices in my head crowded around, telling me it was pointless, that I didn’t work hard enough, that I’d never make it, I’d open my practice journal and literally say out loud, “Look! I practiced twice a day six days this week. So shut the f- up!”

If I’d seen my doubts as a stop sign, I never would have become a singer again. I never would have found my way into teaching voice to shy singers - something that has brought me so much joy. I never would have met a student who wanted to work on writing songs… and found myself back writing music. I would not have sung in the opera. I would not have music in tv shows.

You see, it really didn’t matter so much how ‘good’ a singer I was. The fact is, when you work on something with awesome mentors, when you practice your craft, you do get better. And the fact that you are working at it makes you stronger. It also opens you to the flow. To the possibilities. To the place where you might say, ‘oh, I’d like to try that.’

The only answer to the doubts: persevere.

See #1 Creative Hack

#1 Creative Hack

Today I found myself watching the Oscars from 1965. How interesting it was to see the ceremony, much less lavish and much more intimate than the one they have today. So many actors and actresses I recall from older films and musicals. My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins and The Unsinkable Molly Brown all vying for awards. The most beautiful moment for me was watching Audrey Hepburn present the award for Best Actor, and she was so sincerely thrilled to announce that Rex Harrison had won. She flew into his arms when he got on stage. So wonderful.

It reminded me of how lucky I have been to have the support of so many people as I have made my meandering creative journey towards freeing my voice, writing my perceptions, expressing myself in song and sound. Many of the composers and songwriters I have come to know are extremely generous with their time and knowledge, honestly celebrating the success of others and sympathizing when things are less successful (while offering sage advice on how to make it better). I can truly say that I would not be where I am today without the help of others who willingly listened to my attempts at composition and production, shared their expertise with me, and encouraged me to keep going inspite of the setbacks.

If there's a Creative Hack I can recommend it is to surround yourself with people on the same path. This is one reason I really enjoy participating in things like
FAWM (February is Album Writing Month- http://fawm.org/)
50-90 (50 Songs in 90 Days- http://fiftyninety.fawmers.org/)
NaNoWriMo (Ntnl Novel Writing Month- http://nanowrimo.org/)
TAXI Forum (http://forums.taxi.com/)
Just Plain Folks (http://www.jpfolks.com/forum/ubbthreads.php)
and others.

Why not look around today and see if there's a Facebook group, forum, message group or online community you can join? You might be glad you did.