If you’ve been following my journey, you know that I’ve set a date for the first performance of my original songs. (I have sung on stage before but always someone else’s material, and it’s been almost two decades since I sang in front of an audience. That’s a lot of time for your mind to play all those fear tricks on you.)
I took a bluegrass ensemble program in January and February, and made a lot of progress, but when that ended eight weeks later, everything stopped. I’m talking complete stagnation, not just with my music, but everything.
My business is at a virtual standstill. I’m not dating. My life has essentially stopped.
With my music, I’m not practicing, not finishing my songs (they need bridges, some of them). I’m not hiring a songwriting or vocal coach. I’m not getting my voice in shape. I didn’t take the next level of Bluegrass Ensemble because I told myself I didn’t have the cash and immediately created a situation where I didn’t, and wouldn’t for just enough time until it was too late.
With my writing, I’m doing almost no writing for pure enjoyment and self-expression, which for someone like me is like saying, “I’m drinking almost no water and eating almost no food.”
Yesterday something strange occurred to me: ever since I acknowledged singing and songwriting as one of my big dreams a few years ago, I essentially stopped listening to music.
My life has become a virtually silent life where I dole out fun like it’s a war ration.
Writers read, all of them. It makes them better writers, but more so, they read because they love the written word.
Musicians and songwriters listen to music. It’s just what they do.
The past few years, I stopped listening to the radio, my iTunes is never open, I lost my Spotify login, and I almost completely stopped doing the thing that fills me up most: going to concerts.
I see a live band once or twice a year; that’s it. I tell myself it’s too expensive or I don’t have someone to go with, but I know the real reason why I avoid concerts like the plague: seeing a live band used to inspire me so much I would go home and write songs all night, or just sit with GarageBand recording harmony parts all day.
Seeing a live band reminded me who I actually am.
So if I don’t go to concerts, I can pretend this isn’t actually important to me, and not face my fears about it. By the way, I could be going to bluegrass open jams; I mean, it’s there for me just a mile down the street. It’s free. It’s fun. I can meet people who can help me and collaborate with me.
But I don’t.
I keep telling myself all these lies, like, “I can’t work on my music today because I have to generate money.” (Ever heard of evenings and weekends?)
And, “Oops. I forgot to sing this week.” (Really? That’s the best you can come up with? You forgot?)
And if I don’t make my business the massive success it could be, I can pretend that spinning my wheels over there is more important than getting my creations and talents out into the world. So I make choices that allow my business to be this drama-filled cash flow rollercoaster instead of making a few tweaks and letting all the goodness and abundance flow to me that I deserve.
It sounds so important and logical to prioritize my business (especially when I cycle into a self-created business crisis which I then have to navigate out of). It sounds logical to tell people this, but it’s really screwed-up logic. They are not mutually exclusive, my business and my dreams. They can easily co-exist. People do it all the time.
It’s not just my music, either. I seem to reach a certain point with all of my dreams and then everything stops. An example is my comedy short (screenplay).
It took me just a few hours for the screenplay to come through me; it must be nine or ten years ago now (how is that possible?). As soon as I wrote it, I took it to my screenwriting group and they did a reading. They loved it. No changes needed.
Next, I submitted it to some writing contests. I had heard that’s a good way to find an agent, or just open yourself up to opportunities. It’s a fairly long process. You submit your screenplay, pay a nominal fee, and maybe six months later, they announce the winners.
I moved on and forgot about the contests. A few months later, I started getting emails telling me I had won the contest, or in some cases, placed highly. Not in just one contest, but in all of them. Wow, I was officially an award-winning writer. I even had some Hollywood producers reach out wanting to know if I had any feature film scripts they could consider.
One of the contests where I took first place was the First Glance Film Festival (Philadelphia). People, this is no po-dunk festival. This is an Oscar-eligible festival. Grand prize was 50% of production costs covered and would even let me co-direct. (That means I have creative control, every writer’s dream.)
They reached out immediately after I won, wanting to get going. Great, I told them. And the next thing I did was …
… nothing. At the time, we were headed into the Great Recession of 2008-2009, and I was in survival. I told them I needed to focus on generating income in my life but that I’d be ready to go soon. They said, “Hey, no hurry. We’re ready when you are.” But that day never came. (For Pete’s sake, I even know a film director in Philadelphia, where they wanted me to shoot, who said she was at my beck and call.)
But what’s my excuse now that I have an email list of several thousand people who love me and there is such a thing as crowd-funding? I mean, what the hell am I waiting for?
And so here we are, back to my singing. I have exactly two months and 13 days to get my act together, continue to get my voice in shape, find a venue, find musicians, fund the project, finish my songs, choose my cover songs and – almost forgot – formally invite my friends and family to come and see me.
The demands of life never seem to slow down, and I refuse to let conditions deter me – it’s just a made-up reason that doesn’t hold water.
I can see in the big picture of my life how I create situations that allow me to justify not moving forward – situations that look like a crisis, and seem like really good excuses for getting nowhere with what is truly important to me. And because these situations work so well, I keep recreating them.
Today I feel frustrated and angry with myself, and I have to ask, “Are you doing this thing or not?” After all, I don’t have to do it. It’s a choice, just like it’s a choice to die with my creations inside of me. Everything is a choice.
Can I be ready in 74 days?
Yes, I can be ready.
Will I be ready? I sure as hell hope so. Ready or not, I’m getting on a stage.
And once I do that, I’m making that darn screenplay into a movie.
Worth a listen: Driftwood, by Travis