Stuff I been thinking about
I’ve got the problem. Really, like THE problem. The artist’s problem, the one that stops us all dead in our tracks, probably the most deep-rooted, stomach-wrenching, ulcer-inducing confidence-crushing disease that I call the PROBLEM. I don’t know if I believe in myself right now. I don’t know if what I have to say is worth hearing. I don’t know that what I write was written well enough. Every mistake is magnified and suddenly VERY significant.
We all go through it, I know. It usually manifests itself in some sort of stage-fright, or performance anxiety. I know guys that have been playing for as long as I have, in the same capacities, that take medication for it – legal medication, even!
How many of my friends have I helped through this? How many times have I watched you play, tell you what you did well, what you needed to improve? How many people have asked for my help – or just expressed this kind of fear to me? How many times have I played coach, and who’s gonna coach me? I don’t know. I probably just need my own advice, my own experiences and my own medicine to get through this – I’ll work it out here, but you gotta promise that this stays between you and me, ok? I don’t want it getting out that I got performance anxiety… Happens to everybody, right? Right?
When I take a casual look at my personal creations, my writing, my live performances, I typically feel fine about them, but when it comes time to take the critical look – I only see the cracks. I see the pressure of production schedules, budgetary concerns, the minutia of arrangements, the details and nuances I’m trying to capture in my guitar work – and that nuts-and-bolts kind of stuff is one kind of pressure – when I look critically, I have to be honest with myself. I don’t put in the necessary hours. I don’t feel deeply connected with the material. I don’t feel… like myself? Is that how I should put it?
In the end though, a lot of it comes down to a few things that I say to people who come to me with these problems.
Once you’ve decided to (I hate this phrase) “put yourself out there”, you have to come to peace with the fact that this is happening. If you falter slightly along the way, you’ve got to push through and keep going forward. In a three-and-a-half minute song, you have plenty of opportunities to miss a note, blow a phrase or forget a lyric. It’s going to happen, and what will separate the amateur from the pro is whether or not you can recover on the fly, and not let it affect the rest of your performance.
The most common trigger I encounter with self conscious musicians goes a little something like this: “I only played two shows last year, and one of them SUCKED. I have a 50% failure rate. SADFACE.” If you rarely play, each performance is a huge percentage of your body of work, which has a major influence on what your general attitude is going to be toward your self-image. I play a minimum of fifteen times monthly, so if a song doesn’t go off the way I wanted, I have another chance. If a whole gig goes south, I’m not bouncing off the walls, but I’ll be ok. If a bad pattern develops… well, I haven’t had to go there recently, but one can still fall into a funk – hence this post.
Learn your triggers and respect them. If I’m not rehearsing regularly, I lose connection with my material, become self-conscious and very sensitive to criticism. If I’m not keeping up with learning new business practices, I become dull-witted and have trouble tracking ideas and it really stresses me out when I’m con fronted with them. If I’m not actively recording, I end up with a slight fear of microphones. See where I’m going? Not doing breeds not wanting to do. Getting out of a spiral is very important, and sometimes very difficult. Understand what you perceive to be your failures to be and address them – ask for help, if necessary. Having a close support structure for your emotional stability could be the fix for what ails you. Other times, you just gotta go play.
Failure is part of the job. If you’ve never failed, you’ve never had to try sufficiently hard enough at something to make it worth your while. Safety is for scrubs. If you screw it up, take some notes and figure out how to do it better. Sometimes we’re going to take long-shots, and when we do, we need to take them boldly and proudly. If you can’t get #3 taken care of, you increase your chances of failure.
If you’ve got problems getting motivated, putting pen to paper, or picking up your instrument, this is the best advice I can come up with right now. I arranged the list in order of external to internal problems – but if you want a more action-oriented, causally connected list, take this:
Play more often – This will ease your fears, and give you a larger body of work – your success rates will increase, giving you a chance to learn how to work through small mis-steps along the way. Do not dwell on mistakes along the way – this will be a direct result of playing more often. The last two (do not fear failure/know thyself) become intertwined with playing more often and reducing the effect of small mistakes. Throughout your performances, pay attention to how you feel. Pay attention in between gigs to what slows you down spiritually. What makes you lazy? What makes you afraid? Being self-aware throughout the writing/rehearsal/performance process will teach you how you need to interact with yourself and others, so that you can feel empowered and energized by engaging in your art.
Hope this was helpful! I’ll let you know if it works for me!
Check this out:
Now, I don’t typically form too many opinions on music immediately after I hear it, or while I’m listening, so I won’t do any real music criticism on the song itself. If you’re a Dream Theater fan, I figure you’ll immediately like the song.
But would you look at that guitar!! It’s freakin’ gorgeous!!!
John Petrucci has the sweetest guitars, I swear. They play forever. And I mean it. You can play on these things for hours and not get tired. Seriously I don’t have much else to say. I just needed to get my fanboy on.
Baby Abby is learning how to crawl. Apparently it is very frustrating – she does a bunch pushup-type motions, rocks back and forth, cries and coos, then falls over, sometimes getting her face better acquainted with the floor. I’m feeling about the same, learning how to really update my website, make posts look the way that I want, and in general un-christmas my web presence.
So Abby is getting there, about as quick as I am. Fun times. There’s a new/old demo on the homepage media player – I just learned how to do that! Now that Nikki’s computer is up and running so she can make with the designs, I had the time/gumption to figure that out without asking her to just do the thing for me. That means I’m growing as a person, right?
So I’ve always been real good for singing some Christmas or holiday songs at parties, churches, TV, or the food pantry, but one thing that gets me in trouble every few months is the look of Christmas. I’ve never been one for holiday sweaters – though I’ll wear the occasional hideous sweater for kicks:
But by and large, I don’t do the ‘festive’ look… Enter Nikki!
Nikki can pretty much do anything, and is super brilliant at design. I watch her do work for people all the time – restaurants, art committees, fitness professionals. She obviously does all the Dale Tippett Jr visual stuff (if something looks bad, it’s probably something I did) – but whatever she does, she makes sure the atmosphere of the project is right, and her eye for detail is the stuff of legend.
Nikki’s photography – for me, at least – is a place in her skill set where she really shines. I look at some of the best pictures she’s taken of me, for example, and they look super-slick and professional, but what she’s able to do is capture a relaxed moment that has motion and gets you right in the feels. The thing that the regular viewer might not know though, is that I was sick as a dog, in a terrible mood, but needed a photo for this or that promo – she’s able to get blood from a stone. It’s freaky, but in a good way.
The design stuff she’s doing for the Christmas season show and CD is crazy good – I love the promo she did (see feature image) and honestly, I think it all ties in to the aesthetic that she uses for this project rather seamlessly.
PS – 8 days til Xmas show – reserve your CD today!
I can’t believe I never published this!!!
I wrote this post last year – before I told anyone we were pregnant with Abby, at a gig that was kinda killing my soul just a little. Anyway, I had a lot of fun with it, and I hope you like it too:
I’m at a gig right now. I’m writing instead of focusing on the job. I’m still doing great, don’t worry. Folks are talking, dancing and in general enjoying themselves. I do my people watching at gigs that I don’t have to think too hard about. Here’s some things I’m musing about as these folks go about their celebration:
I don’t care what you saw on television. When you’re confronted with a microphone in public, don’t tap the damn thing. That just makes you look dumb. Scratch the screen if you really don’t know if it’s on or not. Tends to annoy people a lot less.
When that microphone starts to feed back, don’t cover it. That makes it worse.
Pregnant women throwing up is hilarious.
That orange that’s not an orange, but rather a chocolate thing, and you smash it and it’s a buncha pieces? Those are dumb.
Couples that keep their finances seperate freak me out. Makes no sense. Either you’re supporting each other as a unit, or you’re just dating. Kinda.
Jimmy Buffet is kinda boring. I like Brian Adams though. How are those 2 ideas related? Bite me.
I want a CR-V.
I wish the soundcheck feature on iTunes was better.
That’s all I got. I think I’ll sing a few songs now – – – hold on…
Professional people fake hula dancing pleases me. Make a video and post it as a response below!
That is all. Imma go sing now. Do your job well, you guys.
Took Addi in for report card pickup today – she’s doing real good, and I’m super glad and proud of her. She can be a total space cadet sometimes, but if anything, that only delays whatever agenda Nikki or I happen to have. By and large, she’s a super sweetheart, and I’m so glad to have her 🙂
Are the works of children protected under copyright law? Here’s ponies or something aiming their farts at each other, for all I can tell. This ain’t addi’s. but it’s AWESOME. I would love a dramatic reading of the story, if you got the time…
I hope you’re reading this at a cubicle – that makes my Monday morning pajama-party all the sweeter! Did you take advantage of the time change? I didn’t but, I’m pretty sure this is the temporal arrangement that my body prefers…
Have some pictures!
The kids have been great the last few days, since they have a bucket of candy, though it wasn’t all super easy the whole time for them. Aiden resisted dressing up –
but once he realized that people were giving him candy, he was unstoppable.
Addi was Fanky Stein from Monster High:
The best part was when she popped the bolts off of her neck at the end of the night. Apparently, 3M makes surgical grade neck adhesives. Adorable.
Abby was a fuzzy pink monster!
She slept almost the entire time we were out – made me only kinda regret that her costume was like thirty bucks… A sleeping baby is a happy baby, though, and that thing didn’t breathe, so she was super warm out in the rain and everyone had lots of fun.
I like to pretend that Nikki went as a zombie apocalypse survivor the day before the outbreak. I went as a clone of myself (how meta).
Now Saturday night I was at YOTI in Mt Prospect with Something Beautiful. It was our first show with the backing tracks instead of a drummer in a few years, so as far as I’m concerned, it took a minute to readjust to the level of precision I had to play with, but we did really well, I think.
I do a lot of things. I love a lot of things. One of those things is Magic the Gathering, obviously. I write about it on Mondays. What’s up with that?
Well, from what they tell me, a personal blog for an artist should be a place where he should express himself however he naturally does, about things he’s passionate about. Some of you may apparently care about what I do in my free time – or maybe we have a common interest.
So there’s the reasoning. Here’s some resources:
The Limited Resources Podcast is where I learn the most about my favorite formats to play, which are the limited formats. Sealed and draft are the most skill intensive way to play, whereas constructed formats are far more controlled.
Limited formats involve you starting with sealed product – that is, unopened packs of cards, then you end up with a deck. 40 card minimum, usually 2 colors, 23 spells and 17 lands or 22 and 18. The game becomes one of evaluation, deliberation, and attentiveness to what you’ve got, what you need, what you’re opponent had access to, and what each turn might mean for each player’s overall strategy. Super deep.
Anyhow, if you like the game, I highly suggest you check out the show, buy cards at cardkingdom.com and follow the hosts on twitter. They’re good guys who respond to their email more often than I do!