I don’t know if this will connect with anyone else, but just in case I want to share my experience lately with creative work life.
Yesterday was a typical yet maybe slightly more dysfunctional than usual day. I knew I wanted to record the song “Rest In You”. Once family things were squared away I went into the studio. Here’s what happened:
1st - As soon as I was in the studio I felt a strong urge to reevaluate the microphone I was about to capture my precious vocal takes with. “What if it’s not the right mic? My work will be diminished.” So I hit up the internet to find my answers which we all know is a very straight-forward place to find answers. 1.5hrs later I was no closer to answers than when I started. I now had a list of 25 mics I needed to try and had no access to. Worse, I felt self-hatred rising. “WHAT am I doing?!” At this point in our life, time for me to get work done is very rare. There are entire days and sometimes weeks I can’t work. When I do get that time, it’s precious.
2nd - Now I’ve got very little time to do my important work. I was literally pacing around my tiny studio, furious with myself for not just recording the vocal track. I was so angry. “I’ll NEVER get anything done.” “I’m broken.” For a moment I pictured smashing all the gear in my studio. I was on the edge of rage.
3rd - I dragged myself from my enraged pacing to the center of the studio and started singing warm-ups. That’s the first step. 15 minutes later I was warmed up. I dragged myself from the middle of the room to my laptop, pulled up the session, and hit record. Two seconds later Ruth started banging on my door. More rage. “Why is this happening?” “Why isn’t Heather taking care of Ruth?”
4th - I dragged Ruth upstairs, feeling all of the anger I’d felt toward my self now directed at her and Heather. Dropped her on the floor upstairs, gave Heather an angry look, and went back down. “Great, how am I supposed to sing with emotion and beauty when I’m angry?” Two seconds later, Ruth is back. I repeated my angry return of Ruth to Heather. Back down to the studio. Hit record. Ruth is back.
5th - I quit. I went upstairs and put my sweats on to go for a run. I’ll never record this stupid song. Then Heather grabbed Ruth and for a moment I realized I could go running or possibly still record. I went down to the studio and hit record again and started singing. BTW- that’s the first time I’ve recorded in sweats. I have no idea why - it’s not like you can hear them. This opens a lot of possibilities! Anyway, I got 5 pretty good takes and then realized the record button wasn’t hit. !
6th - I chose to regroup, hit record for real this time, and did another 5 takes. By take 12, my voice was tired and I knew I needed to stop. In the past I would have pushed to take 25 and hated myself, but I’ve learned the hard way that you can push through a lot of things, but not singing. Time to stop. I was depressed. I wasn’t happy with anything I’d recorded.
7th - I sat down and researched mics for another hour. Frustrated with the day and with myself.
8th - I decided, just for education’s sake, to do a rough mix of the final take and listen back. It actually sounded pretty good.
This is the part where everything shifted.
Something hit me, which my mind was ignoring the entire day: THERE IS NO DEADLINE. I’M NOT BEHIND. “Time is not running out. There is not someone chasing you down. You are not going to drown.”
Where was this anxiety and feeling of being behind coming from today? I think it’s the same place it’s come from for the last 20-some years of my life. My self. For some reason I’ve always told myself that I’m behind. I need to hurry. I need to catch up.
There’s a phrase I’ve run across in voice training. “Don’t let your breath get ahead of your voice.” Without going into detail, picture the voice as a 2-part instrument. You have the breath which is the source of energy, and you have the vocal folds which are the source of resistance which creates vibration, which we call “voice”. Generally, most voice problems are caused by an imbalance between these two parts. Letting the breath “get ahead of the voice” means we’re pushing out more breath than the vocal folds are resisting, which results in a “breathy” voice, which leads to irritation and fatigue and a weak voice. An inefficient use of energy. That’s why singing “harder” doesn’t always make you louder.
For some reason I’ve always told myself that I’m behind. To compensate, I’ve always been in a hurry. I need to do more, fast. I need to release this song ASAP. It’s not about money. It’s about catching up. As a result, I think I create an imbalance of energy. I’m pushing with more effort than the reality of life calls for. The reality of life says I can release a song every quarter or YEAR if I want. No one will complain. My internal voice says I need to release a song every month. So I push hard. This leads to fatigue and a weak “voice” (in life - no one can say what they need to say when they’re constantly feeling pressure to say something profoundly useful). An inefficient use of energy, and of my life.
9th - The day was over. I closed my laptop, went upstairs, and watched a movie with my family. I felt happy. Even though the recording I did that day may not have been a “keeper”, and even though it took me the entire day to hit record, I did hit record. I did sing. And so today, even if by only a hair, I won against fear. I made progress. Not just with my project, but with my battle against fear and anxiety and against lies.
Tomorrow is another day and the battle will continue. But I’ll remember what happened yesterday. So will the enemy. Time is not running out. This battle isn’t about today or this week or this year. It’s a lifelong battle, and even a tiny step in the right direction, repeated over and over throughout life - if we keep crawling forward and dragging ourselves an inch at a time toward the finish - will eventually lead to victory. My victory today was not about recording a perfect take. It was about not giving up. The enemy isn’t trying to mess up our day. He’s trying to kill us - to stop us completely. When he realizes, and when WE realize, that we will never quit, no matter what, the battle shifts. I believe we’ve been given this power. It’s what we’ll celebrate this Easter. The same power that raised Jesus from the grave, the same power that’s sustained Olivia, is the power that enables us to take another step forward.
Today, most of us will probably screw up 99% of it. It’s ok. That’s not the important part. We know what our other 1%, our “record button” is. It could be picking up the phone. It could be taking one of our children aside and having a conversation. Or touching our spouse on the hand and looking them in the eye and saying what we need to say. It could be giving a gift. A kind word. Quitting a job. I don’t know. But you do. In the midst of your self-hatred and enraged pacing and incessant avoidance, drag yourself out of it and hit record and sing. Yes, most of the day is wasted. But we will not let that determine what happens next.