After a tarot reading, a musician is looking for his “thing”.

Feel the fear and do it anyway, says our elder.

Dear EWC

Hello! Thank you in advance for your help. I am a gigging/teaching musician. I perform a few nights a month and teach throughout the week. I achieved a master of music a year or two ago and I am doing well for my first couple of years out. Steady jobs and steady performing, the three groups I perform with are at a lull in their performing. Same gigs, same faces. With “DK” I play bass and have gotten on my feet as a bassist over the past couple of years. With “AT” I sing half the time and play bass. I also play woodwinds in another band. I have a decent list of instrumental experience. I’ve tried writing my own songs in the past but have only had one or two come to fruition. I have dozens of little quips saved in a notebook but barely anything complete or concrete. I recently went to a tarot card reader at a festival (I read my own cards sometimes and think there can be some truth in them, even if it is just chance). She mentioned that I was doing a job that was working for other people and their ideas, I didn’t have my own voice—I was doing what everyone else wanted and not my own “thing”. I am doing my own direction at all of my jobs except my performing groups.

This has led to deep thought about how I start to move in that direction and what do I do now that I make that realization. I am having trouble deciding on an instrument to perform with. I am having trouble deciding my “voice”. I am having trouble finishing lines. I am just having trouble. It’s like the freezing before jumping into pool. I guess I’m just looking for advice on finding a way to speak your mind or find your “thing”. Music has been my “thing” for years. I love it, but now that I want to have my own sound, I find myself freezing and becoming unsure. Any advice you can give me on find that voice inside of myself would be helpful. I just feel like I have the knowledge and the skills… I just don’t know how to hear myself. Thanks.

SuzannaRoseanna replies

I loved the way you articulated your issue as being like “freezing before jumping into a pool”. I think there may be a lot to that analogy. If you take it further, what does one do when they experience that “freeze”? Basically, they do one of the following:

• Take a deep breath and jump in, suffering the initial shock and then doing their thing in the pool
• Getting in a little at a time at the shallow end, splashing water over their body here and there
• Deciding to try getting in the pool another day, maybe a warmer one
• Deciding to go ride a bike instead (well, maybe not ride a bike, but you get the picture!)

Which of those options do you gravitate towards? The first option makes me think of an excellent book that I recommend to you, Jos. It’s called, “Feel the Fear, And Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers. Her premise is that we often get paralyzed when we consider doing certain things because we are afraid of failing and that if we do we won’t be able to cope. She points out that we don’t know that we’ll “fail” and even if we do, we have options. She helps sort out notions of what “failure” means and how we can reality test the things that we’re afraid of doing and the options we have.

What I’d love to see you do is to get back the joy that I sense that you’ve had in your music, a sense of play even. To that end, can you allow yourself to just “noodle” around on various instruments? Maybe you could try playing familiar tunes on less familiar instruments just to see what it’s like. Or, maybe you could explore different keys, volumes, and/or speeds. Perhaps it would be fun to play with the idea of synesthesia. That’s the notion of experiencing one sense through another. For example, people may talk about a “green taste”. In music, blue has gotten a lot of play, but what would orange be like, or pink? What I’m suggesting is that you try to find some ways to loosen up and just enjoy exploring the sounds you can make on various instruments. Which ones make you feel happy? Which ones make your pulse race? Which ones make you sleepy or sad or…? See how many emotions you can evoke in yourself. If it helps, find a place outside where you can experiment while not disturbing others. (My son used to do this when he played the saxophone. He’d drive out into the country and wail away!)

In my experience, creativity is a blend of intuition and knowledge. One without the other doesn’t usually work very well. You have the degrees and the experience, now you need to let the intuition out. It’s one of the paradoxes that freedom comes from discipline, i.e. knowing the rules so you can choose which ones to bend or break.

How fast you break through this temporary “freeze” depends a lot on how perseverant and patient you are with yourself. It also depends on your willingness to consider what “failure” might look like and what you’d do if it happened. You’ve done well so far and you can keep going! In the meantime, I’d stay away from the tarot card readers since that could be a distraction when you need focus.

I hope this is helpful and I am tuning up my ear right now in anticipation of hearing your voice! 

Letter #: 430338
Category: Self-Improvement

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