When I first had the idea of starting this blog, I registered the name straight away. Then fear struck.
For about a year and a half (probably more!) I’ve been writing small posts, then deleting them over and over and not sharing anything for fear or what would happen. I had a classic case of imposter syndrome; why would I have anything valuable to say? Would anyone care? Why was I qualified to write anything?
The truth is I really enjoy writing, as well as making music, but I’ve never felt like I could write anything to a level where anyone may be interested. I am not an author; merely a voice like many others. I had a blog before on my old website, and it fell by the wayside as I lost my confidence more and more in almost every area of my life; my music, my health, my relationship with myself and others.
For me, songwriting has always been about sharing. When I was going through the hardest patches of my young life, I found solace in the songs of others and in writing my own. Much like these songs, I hoped this blog would provide the ‘I’m not alone’ feeling to other independent musicians, and shed some light for people who love music about what really goes on behind the scenes for independents.
…But I’ve been stalling. Making excuses about writing content. Unsure of how it would be received. Telling myself there’s no point. And I realised I was afraid of failing and in doing so had become afraid of trying anything new.
As a perfectionist, I find any endeavour where I am unsure of the outcome and my own abilities, painfully anxiety inducing… which is excellent when you choose a creative career where nothing is certain and abilities are measured subjectively!
I recently started getting back in to fitness after over a decade’s break thanks to knee surgery, other health issues, including an endometriosis diagnosis and loss of confidence in my body. I’ve really struggled with myself mentally (as well as sometimes physically in the gym). The trainer I work with reminded me that most of the time, being in the gym is about failure and figuring out what works for you. I remember at one point, in a bout of frustration at myself during a session, he said to me that: “You’re not meant to be good at it to begin with”. Such simple words, but it made me realise how limited I’ve made myself because I wanted to be good at everything all the time. I didn’t even want to try if I couldn’t do it well.
And the simple truth is no one is good at everything, and the things we do choose to pursue take a long time to excel in, if we ever get there at all. At the start of anything, you suck. It’s that simple. But the love takes over, and you better in it every day. If you value what you’re doing for yourself and others, then the hard work, struggle and fear must be overcome.
It’s also worth realising that whilst there are certain objective markers for success in areas (getting your vocal in tune, your squat form right or selling a 100,000 records – I can dream!), that most of the values we define ‘success’ by, are subjective. We are constantly comparing ourselves to others (and especially to their ‘greatest hits’ on social media!). These are people who themselves are on a nutty and winding path filled with bouts of luck and enormous amounts of unvalidated work too.
For me, as a self employed and therefore self motivating person, I’m finding setting small goals and taking smaller, quantifiable actions most days helps. I find getting the balance of time in life hard, and the amount of roles to inhabit as an independent is often overwhelming. But, it can be as simple as sending one email out, writing a to-do list for the week or month, or sitting down for 5 minutes to write during a busy day where you’re working your day job. It all contributes to the bigger picture. A massive reminder too, that you cannot do everything. No one can. Ask for help or find someone to talk to. That’s not failure. It’s called support.
An example for myself of taking a small action, has been recently starting to resend my newsletter and making time to schedule it every month. I put the deadline in to a calendar app, and when I get 30 minutes, I finish and schedule it ahead of time so it’s done. I always feel great about once I’ve completed it. In truth, I was really inspired by my friend Dave Arcari, who to me has always been such an example of a truly hard working independent musician. I stopped sending out a monthly newsletter and updating my shop because I thought no one cared what I had to say anymore, but in making myself restart this year, and also taking the time to invest in new merchandise and a new shop, I’ve seen a resurgence in sales and more people coming to gigs, because they’re aware of them. In short, I tried, and it paid off, despite how scared I was and a slight financial risk too.
The truth is, the creative pursuit is life long and projects come and go, and it can be hard to see what you’re working for overall, other than the love of it. I have new challenges every day, and so will you. No matter how hard it feels at time, there’s always a tiny step you can take each day to help you along your way. The real failure is in never trying to begin with.
And an end note in case this blog has hit a nerve… it’s a cliche but the real end goal is to enjoy life. Never lose sight of that. If you’re not enjoying life or your career anymore, and trying has become too much to bear or no longer feels worth it, then take a look at why that might be, ask for help from those around you, and ask yourself if your values have changed. There’s nothing wrong with that. As painful as it might be, don’t give up hope and remember there’s always a way in life. X