I love that list that was going around Facebook awhile back — How to make yourself miserable as an artist. It included such gems as “constantly compare yourself to others” and “set huge, enormous goals that need to be achieved tomorrow.” (Oops — I definitely find myself guilty of both, from time to time.) In a way, I’d love for my blog to turn out as a sort of “Make yourself UN-Miserable as an Artist” list.
First, an anecdote about myself. Picture this: it’s the morning after a big, self-produced Chicago Q Ensemble concert. I wake up, stretch, and feel that wonderful post-concert lightness and relief. I’m no longer stressing about the upcoming show. The concert was an awesome success, a big moment for the quartet.
So how do I celebrate? By getting out of bed and hopping on my laptop. Time to update the website, Facebook, and Twitter; use my limited InDesign skills to fix up our press kit; and email that community music director about setting up a concert. My email to my colleagues that day might look something like: Amazing performing with you guys this weekend!! Now, about next week’s rehearsal schedule …
It’s a sad but familiar story. There’s always more to do, and the last thing in the world we make time for is simply enjoying what we’ve achieved. As Kyra wisely pointed out in a recent comment, we young musicians have an awful lot to prove. (And I can’t resist adding, we young female musicians (who are interested in having a family) are racing against the clock to establish a career before pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood obliterate life as we know it. Did I just say that? Yes. I did.) A weird combination of American workaholism and artistic fervor sometimes means no time to relax, to enjoy, to celebrate.
I guess what I’ve been trying to remember lately is that the quality of my musical life, and life in general, is more essential than the quantity of my musical achievements, their prestige, their splash in the press. And if I’m going to have the long, fulfilling career I’ve dreamed about, it’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint.The other day, I was reviewing Chicago Q Ensemble video footage for a grant application. Instead of exporting the files really fast, I made a conscious decision to simply watch and, in this case, feel really, really proud of how we sound. Why work endlessly if you’re never going to savor the results?
So next time, I’ll try something different. It’s the morning after a big, self-produced concert. Everything went great. So I’ll … go out for brunch with Tyler, take a walk by the lake shore, buy a new album to listen to, and do twenty minutes of yoga. If not now, when?