Humans tend not to be logical and consistent, which is why, as a blogger, I make it a point to follow my own advice.
Therefore, after writing 4 Reasons You Suck at Self-Expression, And What You Can Do About It, I decided to... be more self-expressive? I've since played originals at four open mics -- and it's totally, super fun!
Last week, I performed with my friend Robyn at the Acoustic Den Cafe -- which, for the record, is the coolest place to play music EVER. Like, it's so cool, it even has its own theme song.
And delicious food -- so come hungry!
My song, Behind a Mercedes, is about mindfulness -- a topic in psychology that's gotten super popular and somewhat misunderstood over the last few years. (Hint: it's not about washing dishes.) I've previously written about how becoming mindful is kind of like classically conditioning yourself to be happy...
But, obviously, not 100% of the time.
Because no matter how good you are at mindfulness, eventually you're going to lose something you care about. No matter how good you are at staying present, certain sights, sounds, and memories are going to jerk you from the present and remind you of the past.
So there you have it -- a song about being happy and appreciating everyday miracles... 99% of the time.
It kind of reminds me of some of 2016 Bestselling Books, including:
10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, And Found Self-Help That Actually Works, by Dan Harris.
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, by Jenny Lawson.
And, of course, F*ck Feelings: One Shrink's Practical Advice for Managing All Life's Impossible Problems, by Michael Bennett, MD, and Sarah Bennett.
It's clearly very important to us that we feel happy... but we shouldn't feel like we've "failed" at it when a memory punches us in the gut.
That said, it's important not to ruminate, because dwelling on your problems all the time is a fastrack to depression.
Now. Back to the "following my own advice" thing.
Other musicians sometimes tell me that they play or write music, but they're too scared to share their work. I've spent a lot of time thinking about the best way for them to get over that, so they can begin sharing, harmonizing, and collaborating.
The truth is... it's hard. I don't have any GREAT advice that will suddenly make you feel comfortable performing and/or creating. A few strategies that have worked for me include:
1. Stop trying to be perfect.
Your music will never be perfect. If you always wait until you've "practiced enough" or "gotten it just right," you'll never share anything with anyone.
For example, here's a video of me and Robyn, playing one of my favorite songs ever: Helplessly Hoping, by Crosby, Stills and Nash. We don't sound perfect, but we sound pretty darn good -- especially considering Robyn had just gotten off a plane!
We were also bummed that we only had two singers, even though there are three vocal parts in the song... So when we got there, I asked the bass player from the house band if he knew the third part and could sing with us. He said he'd give it a try -- and he ended up being replaced, mid-song, by a woman named Tiffany, who loves that song!
It wasn't perfect. But it was so much fun.
Speaking of "perfect"...
In an ideal world, I wouldn't need a stand with music. I should be able to sing my own songs, with lyrics I wrote. But... the night I played Behind a Mercedes, I wasn't sure if I had it all memorized. The night I played Tissues, I'd just written a new ending, and I'd only practiced it once.
Neither performance was perfect. Both were indrecibly fun. #NoRegrets.
That said... there's probably some kind of etiquette about not sucking. Like, if you really don't know the song, maybe don't play. But if you know it reasonably well, I say go for it!
2. Don't be so self-conscious.
It's horrible advice, right? Because if it were easy, people would just do it, right?
But it's also really good advice, because there are actual, proven ways to care less what others think. They are:
Find your flow --participate in activities that present you with high levels of both challenge and mastery, and you will become imersed in what you are doing.
Be more mindful -- when you're totally in your own head, experiencing your own experience, you're not worried what's happening in other people's heads.
Practice cognitive reframing -- that tired old advice, "Pretend no one's watching," is actually somewhat effective. Your brain can't fully distinguish fantasy from reality. If you fantasize about a certain scenario, part of your brain will think it's true, and you'll experience some relief.
Besides, the honest truth is that no one is watching you.
3. Handicap yourself... without self-handicapping.
As I wrote in According to Psychology, There Are Four Ways to Feel Better About Yourself, self-handicapping is when you sabotage yourself so that you feel better about the outcome.
Either you sabotage yourself -- say, by not studying for a test -- and you don't do well. Or you sabotage yourself and you still do well. Either way, your ego is very much protected.
Everything is okay in moderation, even, I suppose, self-handicapping.
For example, one of the best ways to make adults creative is to handicap them. If you tell them, "Be creative!" they totally shut down, because they're self-conscious and they want to protect their ego.
But if you tell them, "Be creative -- with your hand tied behind your back!" their self-consciousness goes away!
So say you're trying to be creative. You sit down with your guitar. You can write anything.
There's a decent change you won't be able to come up with anything you would feel comfortable sharing.
But say you sit down with your guitar and you tell yourself,
"I'm going to write a song about a burrito!"
"I'm going to write a song with a key change!"
"I'm going to write a song that only uses two chords!"
Suddenly, you feel less stressed about being creative... and you get more creative. At least, that's what works for me. I've written songs that I totally love (or, at least, strongly like) with those prompts as a starting point.
Artists. Musicians. I want to hear from you. How do you get more comfortable with sharing, performing, or creating your art?
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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