I Bared My Soul in the Semifinals of the Mars Studios Songwriting Contest... And Then I Lost. But I'm Super Glad I Tried.
I'll come right out and say it: I'm not sure how I even made it to the semis. It's not that I don't have confidence -- I do (#ChooseBeautiful). It's more that every single songwriter in the first round was incredibly talented.
But regardless of how it happened, it happened. I progressed to the next round -- and I was incredibly lucky to have two good friends drive all the way to Capitola from Mountain View to cheer me on. (Maybe that's what I'll write my next song about! I'll call it "Over the Hill," or, "Basically Long Distance," or something.)
Prior to the semifinals, I did a small amount of agonizing over which of my songs to play. I could stick with Behind a Mercedes and Thought's Not The Same as Knew (The Toothbrush Song). Those were tested, at least -- two judges liked those songs enough to select me for the next round. (You can watch the first round here.)
But further testing revealed that lots of people get confused by the whole "Mercedes" thing. Some people associate it with money. Others get hung up on the recurring mention of a brand. Maybe the song wasn't as solid as I thought it was?
And, honestly, I was a little bit over Toothbrush. I wrote it a long time ago (hence the line, "It hasn't even rained yet this year"), and I was ready to try out some of my newer stuff.
At the urging of my young friend Kirra, I decided to play two new songs: Tissues -- which I picked because the judges told me my chord progressions are simple, and Tissues has a descending bass line... which is kind of complicated and technical, right? -- and Tunidas, which is a "more realized" song, with a bridge and everything.
I learned later that I should have tested the whole Tunidas thing a bit more. Tunidas is the name of one of my favorite beaches in Half Moon Bay, and where part of the song takes place. I thought people would get it. They didn't. Instead, they just thought I was mispronouncing the ear condition, tinnitus.
Live and learn, I guess :P
Here's the video, again -- I don't start until about 40 minutes in:
Why am I sharing this on my blog?
Because I think it's important to follow my own advice. It's silly to write about fearlessness and creativity and self-expression... and then be like, "But I'm not going to share my stuff, because people might not like it and think I'm a bad songwriter."
Even though that thought has definitely crossed my mind. More times than I care to admit. I'm not normally the kind of person who worries what other people think of me -- and I had to remind myself of this fact.
(Another trick I've used: reminding myself that even if someone doesn't like my music, mine is still better than theirs, because they haven't even written anything -- yet another example of why you should definitely be comparing yourself to others, like, all the time.)
So I shall conclude by saying the same thing I said when I posted Behind a Mercedes:
People sometimes tell me that they play or write music, but they're too scared to share their work. I've thought 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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