Lessons from the studio and beyond
There are lots of Five-Ways-To-Change-Your-Life-Really-Fast, etc. articles available online. Advice is easier now than ever to come by. Got a problem? Have a question? Just type it in at the top of the screen. Really fast. Pick a popular online sage and search their vast collection of public pondering.
Any yet, when the computer is turned off life still has its challenges; the Internet hasn’t changed everything or even much of anything. And problems remain. Positive change is often elusive and usually takes a very long time.
And with that less-than-inviting introduction, what follows is a brief reflection on a few lessons learned in the midst of a rather large creative project. Well, it was large for us anyway. People make music and CD’s all the time. But Misfits & Moonbeams was the first recording project that I have been a part of. And I only dropped in at the studio briefly at the beginning and the very end.
So what did I learn during that time? And what could I say that might be helpful along the way?
1. Don’t try too hard to please everyone or even yourself
Most people have likely heard most of this before. But it’s worth repeating. No matter what you do, some people will like it and some people won’t. That’s life. For that matter, some days you will like what you do and some days you won’t. Feelings come and go. When it comes to music, there are 18,000 different options and a wide variety of personal preferences. All the opinions and preferences out there and “in there” can make a person crazy.
Pleasing others and pleasing yourself are both important, even very important, secondary goals to keep in mind. If either is completely ignored for an extended period of time there will be serious problems. Each artist has to take the time to find their own voice. And music is made to be listened to and appreciated and enjoyed. But there is much more to life than just trying to please a bunch of people including yourself.
Trying to please God, for example, can come across as being corny and cliché. And it can seem complicated at times. But pursuing what God wants whether in music or art or in life makes much more sense as a primary goal than trying to please incredibly diverse, sometimes fickle, often insecure, and occasionally very confused people.
2. Some decisions involve moral issues but many don’t
Once again, this is nothing new; and yet, this point can be easily forgotten. There were moral issues, matters of right and wrong, involved in this recording project. The main one had to do with what is often known as stewardship. The idea being that what has been given to each person (and each person has been given something) is intended to be used.
To state things personally and plainly, if I don’t do anything with what I have been given I am clearly in the wrong. Or, if I attempt to live as if I have been given what I have not been given, again I am in the wrong. The right thing to do, is to be who I am for the benefit of others, to make sure to discover and then use the specific gifts received from an incredibly generous God.
In case you were wondering, I am not particularly good at writing meaningful music and don’t pretend to be. But my wife is. She just seems to do this all the time. It comes naturally. She really enjoys it. And she has been doing this for years. My abilities and interests have more to do with writing and speaking and organizing things.
That being said, that are probably 10,000 ways each person can go about making use of what has been given. For example, Sharlene didn’t really need to make an album in order to share her music – but that is one method she chose. And most of the creative decisions along the way were largely non-moral issues. It didn’t matter so much whether the percussion came in on the first verse or the second. Either way, life would go on.
3. Searching is required to find people who need what you have
This is to say that promoting yourself and marketing what you have isn’t such a bad thing after all. The problem is that most noble things have been corrupted in this world, and marketing is one of them. But if someone has a good well on their land, it might be a good idea to look for people who could make good use of all that water. Don’t you think?
Somewhere along the way, I read about how much time and effort and money Steve Bell invests in order to let people know about his latest recording projects. It’s a lot. The amount of money he typically spends would surprise you. But most people don’t just intuitively know about everything automatically. It is no offence to say that somebody usually needs to take the time to tell them.
If I don’t take the time to let people know about something I have to offer, who will? Authentic spirituality and a measure of passivity can go together sometimes. The idea isn’t to be pushy. But all too often, there is too much passivity and not enough spiritually motivated and individually specific activity. And yes, I had to learn this the hard way.
So I spent the past three months letting as many people as possible know about Sharlene’s debut CD. Basically, this was my full-time job. And even now, there is work that remains.
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