January’s over, and I’m about 5% of the way toward my BHAG of recording 300 songs in 2013. That’s 21 songs toward my ultimate goal of 300. Only 279 to go!
Anyone else would say “Holy crap! you’ve recorded that many songs!?! That’s Awesome!”
Me? I have to remind myself to not be all “meh” about it.
Because I want to be at 300 – like, yesterday.
Welcome to what Seth Godin calls “The Dip“.
This is where it gets hard, and why so many people fall off the “new year resolutions” band wagon by the end of January. The novelty of the project has worn off. There’s only so many times you can share what you’re doing with people. And since I’m in earliest stages of the project, it’s not like I have a huge catalog of music to point to so that I can say “Hey! Look how awesome I am!”
All that comes later – as we near completion of the project. After the hard work of DOING the work is complete (or at least much farther along). It’s one of the downsides of living in an instant gratification economy.
I chose to record 300 songs because it’s a point of deliberate practice for me. There are so many songs in the world, and this will broaden my musical horizons both as a composer and as a performer. Frankly, it’s been way too long since I’ve spent focused time working on my music (8+ years, to be more precise), and it’s a necessary effort for my development as an artist.
In order to excel in anything, there comes a time when you’ve got to put in the hours and do the work.
It can be lonely, grueling, thankless, grunt work as you go along. No one celebrates your do-overs.
I’m pretty sure Thomas Edison wasn’t saying “Hoo-ah! That’s attempt number 907 for an incandescent bulb that didn’t work! Guys, this is freaking AWESOME!”
No, I’m pretty sure it was more like this:
“Attempt 907 didn’t work. Let’s get on with number 908.”
And on life went in Menlo Park. No celebration, no fist-bumping, no toasting the talents of the insanely brilliant team working to make electric light possible.
Just doing the work. Until that 1,000th attempt (or thereabouts) when light was finally stable and constant.
No, I’m pretty sure before the sustained light brought raucous celebration, there were grumbles about quitting, wives that wondered what their husbands were doing all day in that lab (and if they were ever coming home for dinner), and a lot of head scratching as they were working through their problem.
Just the daily grind of trying to create awesome.
We don’t often celebrate the process of creating awesome, just the awesome itself, once it’s been created.
Yet, without the process, there’s never anything awesome to celebrate!
And it can be pretty lonely when your awesome creation takes time.
I try to remind myself that I have all year, and that I’m actually right on track to achieve my goal. I celebrate my “small wins”, and then I come out of my studio and back into “the world”.
It’s here that I’m struck with the overwhelming loneliness that comes with doing great work.
I’m not complaining (much), really. It’s more of an observation that I’ve seen a lot of creatives go through. We put our heads down, impassioned by the task of our great work, and then time flies. We’re “left behind” in other areas because we’re so intensely focused on what matters most in the moment.
Watching friends chatting on facebook about some song or another that I haven’t heard yet because my head’s been down, working on this project.
This is where it becomes important to have a support network.
I was blessed to have my friend Jen Harris join me in the studio to record “Edelweiss”. It was such a breath of fresh air in Michigan’s wonky January weather to have another pair of ears in the room listening, singing, and suggesting our way through the song.
It was a creative revival for me that lasted just long enough to get a lot of joy, and hardly any frustration. My studio’s a nice place for folks to visit, but I don’t want them living there, if you know what I mean. Jen came in to rehearse on Friday, and we finished up on Saturday. Smooth like buttahh!
Then, something fascinating happened. Not only was I reinvigorated, but there was a positive “disturbance in the force” so to speak. People were talking about the work we did together, and that got other people excited about coming into the studio later this year.
Suddenly, everything “old” was “new” again.
Gone was the old ho-hum of recording songs. Suddenly, there was a freshness to the work I’d already done, as well as the work I was setting out to do. No longer was I feeling “meh” about anything. I’m wondering if Jen kind of planned it that way. She’s a pretty smart cookie, I gotta say, so I wouldn’t put it past her.
When we put our heads down and get focused, it can be easy to lose sight of everything around us. It’s easier still to get mired in the daily grind of the creative process. The countless rehearsals, the re-touching, the practice sessions ad infinitum, ad nauseum, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…
We forget how important deliberate practice is, and how we need to bring ourselves to it fully.
Even when no one else is watching, when no one else is celebrating, when no one else seems to care an iota.
Because when all the practice is done, and it’s time to perform, they ARE watching, and talking, and loving what you’ve done.
You’ve just got to put the work in first.