Thursday, June 12, 2014

When Critics attack!!

Not everyone is going to believe in you. The word is full of cynical people who will make assumptions, and even go so far as creating lies to justify their own rationalisation of their views on your choices. We see it in the media all the time, and it happens in everyday life too. Artists quite often find themselves in the critic's aim, both professionally and personally. Even the kindest and most generous and selfless people have raging critics. It feels pretty sad when people can't take you simply as the person you strive to be, but rather paint you out to be something else, because of jealousy, misinformation, or because they haven't bothered to take the time to actually learn the truth. So, how can you deal with the critic?

You have a choice
Reminding yourself that you have a choice in how you deal with someone is a step in the right direction. Sure, there's nothing you can do to stop someone from thinking a certain way, or saying certain things, but you can choose your own response. It's sometimes easy to lose sight that we do still have choices when something out of our control has transpired. Often, the first reaction is to feel that something has "happened to me" and "what do i do?"

To do or not to do
Some situations require immediate action, but if you can afford yourself some time to decide how or even IF you choose to respond, you can be doing yourself an immense favour. Ask yourself if it's really worth responding, and also what the likely outcomes would be if you do. Let's face it, as hurtful as it can be, some people just aren't interested in the truth, nor your point of view. Is it actually worth the effort to set things straight if they are brandishing negative and sometimes even crushing idioms? Sometimes it is, sometimes maybe not. Time can help bring clarity to you. Whilst it might feel good to lash out immediately and defend yourselves, sometimes the best thing you can do for YOU is to simply calm down, take a moment, and think clearly.

And what if you do nothing? Ignoring someones ignorance can be very difficult, but it's a choice that you have. You can choose to not read their criticism, not stand and listen to their rants, nor not have them as part of the circle of people in your life. In reality, people can be misunderstood and assumptions made, and and not everyone has the patience or indeed the foresight to take the time to find out for themselves. Sometimes the record needs to be set straight, sometimes walking away will bring you more long-term gains, and sometimes it's a little bit of both.

Everything is OK
You can't stop people from jumping to their own conclusions, but is it really your business to set them straight? At the end of the day, does it really matter? There are times when it does, and times when it doesn't, but you always have a choice in your own response to criticism. Keep reminding yourself that you do have a choice. It's empowering to know that we have that, even in the face of adversity.

As my husband says, "what someone else has to say about me is none of my business".
I say "Hear, hear!"


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Mentor Ship

We all have something to give, something to share, something to trade. From those small, daily rituals, like holding the shop door open for a lady with a pram, to the biggies, such as teaching a group, running a committee, or creating a revolution, each of us has a part to play.

I often find myself in the humbling position of being a mentor to some of the people around me. Without fail, it's a these times of mentorship that i learn the most. I learn mainly because i am entrusted with a special opportunity of giving, something that is a precious and thankful experience. When i am teaching, i feel that it is I who is the lucky one, to see people around me who value my time, my experiences, and my expertise, where together we share a journey. We become a team, tacking the issues, and sharing the highs and lows that go along with every journey.

In this sea of opportunity, knowledge, and chaos, i find myself visiting ships which are heading for many different ports. Ships of fellow-artists, destined for greatness, cruise liners full of well-wishers and happy-go-lucky folk, boats of melancholic travellers, and random seafaring sailors, looking out for adventure and new-lands.

Being able to share is a gift. Whether you are sharing your art, or sharing your knowledge, exchanging is what community is all about. In our busy, global lifestyles, many miss that sense of a close-knit community, one where people trade skills, look after each other when the chips are down, gather to address issues, and have a sense of togetherness. But humans have togetherness regardless of how much our lifestyles have changed, and whether you find that in the local village or through a small group of likeminded souls, we all have a chance to mentor each other through our paths in our lives, in our art, and in our greater sense of the world as we know it.

Being a mentor isn't just for the teachers. It's for each one of us. From the small children who watch us with wonder, to the close friends who seeks our counsel. Always remember that ships are constantly sailing on this ocean of life, and that your perspective is just as important as anyone's.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Moving Forward

It's easy to get stuck in a loop sometimes. Memories and perceptions-revisited can give the creative artist a sense of being in a rut, standing still, or not moving forward. This can be reflected in one's work process or in ones output, where we feel a little bit like we're not evolving or challenging ourselves to explore new territories. Sometimes this can lead to frustration or a notion of being caught within the layers of our own psyche, unable to push forward or move beyond our own personal experiences.

It's important for an artist to recognise that sometimes standing still is a part of the creative process. It's not necessarily an indication of one's abilities or denials, but an integral part of the journey. Sometimes taking the time to stand still and look intensively at the view for a long period of time can in itself bring about the insights which can lead to momentum. There is nothing wrong with exploring the one piece of real-estate over and over again. Perhaps there is something here that you've missed or that you feel the need to explore more deeply. perhaps you haven't been able to see the forest for the trees, or just maybe there's something more to explore here that just needs a little unearthing to find it.

Of course, most of us feel the excitement of doing something new. It's exhilarating and tantalising. But don't discount the benefits of staying in the one place for a while. Familiarity can breed it's own unique forms of exploration, and sometimes one can only find things previously hidden by hanging around and digging in the one spot for a while.

Momentum is a great thing, but don't dismiss your process just because you're not experiencing it all of the time. Stay still. be quiet. you might be really surprised at what you find :)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Releasing Stuff

To set free from confinement, restraint, or bondage ;To free from something that binds, fastens, or holds back; let go.

It's an interesting definition when you're an artist. This weekend i released a new music track ( FYI ) and now i feel very much like the above definition. I have let it go, but having spent so much intensity on the work, i feel a sense of emptiness. No need to be concerned. This is a normal part of the process for me, and quite a familiar one for many artists like myself.

Prior to a work's public release, it's something a part of me that hardly anybody knows about. It's secret, and precious...something that's all mine. I write often, but only release from time to time. Not everything i write i like...not everything i produce i'm happy with. So the stuff that i do like and happy with is very special to me. And once it's "out there" in the world, not only does it no longer fit within the definition of being my own precious thing anymore, but also i can no longer nurture it by doing stuff with it. It's growth has ended.

Just like a painter or a sculpture, a music artist spends a labour of love moulding and shaping a piece of music. It takes time and dedication. It takes the belief in something that is part of you, yet stands outside of you. There are hours of frustration, longing, excitement, and faith in every single work which eventually becomes "released". There's an investment in thought, in passion, in dedication, and in trust....times when you face your own stupid demons, and also revel in your epiphanies. A piece of music, which ends up only 4 minutes in length, can have taken months and even years to produce. It can be filled with every extreme of an artists psyche, and only they can really know what it took to get it there. It's final birth is the result of an emotional, intellectual, and sometimes spiritual journey which can only be truly understood by the people who made it.

And so, it's the end of one thing.
I'll be off now, to wrestle with myself and something new.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Share With Me

Share with me the creative process. 
For to me, 
this has more life-truth than the 
final polished piece i can hang on my wall. 
Reveal to me the rawness of the journey, 
so i too may feel i had taken it with you,
had seen what you had seen, 
had pained as you had pained, 
and loved as you had loved. 
For to me,
there lies the real beauty in the Art. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Working Artist

Most artists find themselves in a situation where they need to supplement their income...bread-and-butter money, i call it. Sometimes it can be related work, such as teaching their art, but often it's more likely to be in another arena, which can be the polar opposite to their work as an artist.

It's not easy jumping from one thing to another. After a day working in the office, it can be frustrating to find the right headspace to work on one's masterpiece. Even working from home can be fraught with a myriad of challenges, and many artists find that inspiration is elusive when you have the stresses of work hanging over you.

There are some ways around this. Getting into a groove or a routine can be helpful at times. Even if you don't feel the muse, just spending time in your creative work area can ease you back into the right frame of mind. Simply tidying up your workspace, or doing something else mundane in your studio can help get you back there. Sometimes, NOT having any goals can ease the expectations of achieving something, which can get you into a much more relaxed state, where you're more likely to find some kind of flow again. There's no need to put yourself under any more pressure than is necessary, and the small and seemingly insignificant things can actually turn out to be just what you needed.

Of course, sometimes a dose of serious pressure can be highly motivational. Deadlines can sometimes be the inspirational force necessary to birthing a new piece, and halting a state of procrastination. If it works for you, try and set your own personal deadlines, but be aware that too much unnecessary pressure can also be counter-productive.

The good thing about having a regular income is that it can save the stress of needing to sell something or deliver the artistic goods to keep food on the table and a roof over your head. If there's a way to earn money that is related to your artform, it's fantastic, but even if it's something completely different, it can give you the freedom to be free from financial worry. You're not necessarily "selling out" by taking that job (which is something i hear often from artists). It can be a great gift to have the freedom to work on your art without wondering if it's going to feed you next week.

Of course, everyone is different, and whatever your situation, there is always a way you can make it work for you. Keep it simple, and take it easy on yourself. If it doesn't work for you today, there's always another day tomorrow.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Searching for the Muse

There are times when inspiration abounds, when i find magic all around me, in the smallest things. But then there are times of emptiness. Times where there seems to be nothing but a vacuum or a dark void. I get lost in it's vastness, the depth that seems to never end.

I'm not the kind of person who is generally inspired by nature, though i love it immensely. But it's not the kind of thing that inspires my work. My music has always been an exploration of the human experience, and the endless layers that make up that reality. It's so hard to explain, because it's not something in which words can express completely, which is probably why i have found i tend to gravitate towards writing music mostly without lyrics. Without words, the music can speak of many things...something different each time it is played, even.

So, as a consequence of my inspiration, i tend to find that it's humans who inspire my work. And there are times when i feel such a need to express something that's so close in my heart, but there is no conduit. It's like knowing that there's someone trying to call you on your phone, but your phone has no reception.

It's usually at a time of some kind of personal awakening that i lose my muse. My muse can be anyone...a perfect stranger, a friend, or someone who just arrives in life. But the emptiness of a muse-not-yet-revealed becomes more than a frustration. It grows into a deep yearning. It clouds all of my thinking, and devours my day. No matter how hard i try to ignore it, it plants roots inside of me, and creates havoc. It's like yearning for a lover who lives across the waves, and the ache is insatiable. And there's the tease that at any moment, you could stumble upon it unannounced..

So, here i am, observing my emptiness. I will keep searching for the Muse, for though i feel it is a fruitless exercise, i live in the hope that maybe, just maybe...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Labour of Love

I love it when i'm "in the zone" in the recording studio, when the music just seems to come out of me from nowhere, and when something from that moment hits a kind of sweet spot. I love that feeling of synchronicity, even if some of the bits are a bit rough, a few notes pretty jarring, and some of the playing sounded a lot better to me when i was actually playing it.

And then, there's the labour of love...or hate in some cases...when the recording has to be fine-tuned, when the sharp edges have to be carefully ground down, and when the rough diamond has to be patiently cut and polished. Every artform has this process. It can be painful and damn-right annoying. It can see me spending more time walking away from it to clear my head that actually doing the work that needs to be done to make it presentable to the world. Because, you see, i want others to experience it that way i can see it's potential, without having to see past the roughness of the first draft.

Sometimes the process can take so long, i want to throw my hands up in the air and walk away and never return to it. Sometimes i scare myself, thinking that "if this keeps up" i may never finish it, or i'll get so "over it", that i'll no longer hear any magic. I occasionally wonder how long before that labour of love becomes the thorn in my side, especially when it's only a technical problem that's holding up the birth. It's enough fear to keep me motivated to get it done whilst the motivation is there, because i can never guarantee i'll feel the same about it tomorrow.

But recently i spoke of how much i enjoy being privy to the process of others, and so i made a share some works-in-process, with their warts and all. I've given myself a challenge to spend more time in the creating and sharing of drafts than in the polishing. I'm going to put aside my desire for detail, and leave things a bit raw and "not quite right". Maybe someone else might enjoy hearing my own progress through a piece as much as i enjoy watching another artist evolve their piece of art. Who knows. Maybe there's people out there who would actually prefer to hear drafts than listen to something slick and shiny.

And you know what? it feels GOOD.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Art In A Crisis!

When a life crisis hits, many creative people instinctively turn towards their art. Sometimes they can experience a manic surge of artistic activity, creating large bodies of work within a short time-frame. For many artists, life's misadventures can help build creativity and dedication. So what's the drive?

Celluloid by Tania Rose
 Friends and family sometimes find it difficult to witness a creative loved-one disappear into their world of art, assuming that they are using it to "escape the truth", or "ignore" those around them. But often there is something more going on. Many artists first discover their need for creating art through a negative experience, or a sudden change of circumstances. If they were lucky enough to have discovered it from a young age, their art may be the only reliable constant in their lives they feel they have control over.

Professionals in medicine are now beginning to understand how powerful creativity is in promoting healing and good mental health during times of crisis. through art, we can express things that cannot be said, cannot be changed, or cannot be understood. It also infuses a sense of empowerment and strength, and the process offers a place to purge and analyse oneself and try and make sense of the world around us.

So next time your artist locks themselves away and goes crazy with the art, think of it as a GOOD thing, They might just emerge a stronger and healthier person.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Fiddly and the Dilly-Dally

Creating something can be a fiddly business. It can be extremely time-consuming and laborious. This isn't to say that it's not enjoyable, but it can be a painstakingly looooong process, full of yes/no, maybe/maybe-not, will/wont i, dilly/dally...

For the painter, who may take months to finish a work, it can be a difficult thing to see an audience spend only a few seconds looking at the finished piece before moving on. Blood, sweat, and tears can go into a work, and an artist will often pour their heart and soul into their creations, forgoing proper eating, relaxation, and sleep in a bid to achieve a finished piece.

Likewise for other art forms. Music, film-making, and even photography (which can sometimes have a lot of pre and post production work outside of the "click" of a shutter). Art takes time, and for the artist it can be all-absorbing. This is the process. This dedication and care is what creates the wondrous things that we see all around us, from the chair that's been designed by the chair-maker, to the building that's been crafted first on paper. Time and more time are the main ingredients to art.

So, when a piece is finished, most artists will feel an emptiness. Where once there was incredible dedicated effort, there is now a nothingness. Sometimes it can manifest itself in a type of depression or withdrawal, where an artist will seem to skulk, or become ill-tempered. It's ok. All loss is like that, and coming to the end of a journey is a process in itself, one which every artist needs to learn to deal with.

Creating an artwork is in itself an art-form, a head-space. But each piece is unique, and requires it OWN unique head-space, one which will never be lived again. One chapter, one work. We all have to deal with it, and we all have our own ways in which we discover it, live it, and let it go. It's not unlike a temporary love-affair, one which invariably comes to an end.

The upside is usually that one can share their piece with others, finally, after so much has been poured into it. We all hope that you feel something from it. I know i do...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Homus Interuptus

I love working from home.
I love it because i have small children, and it means i can fulfil my role as a mother and a musician simultaneously. Yes, it does mean a lot of juggling, some rule-setting (for the kids AND for me), and i've had to organise a dedicated space from which to work, but i like it! What i don't like are interruptions...not from the kids (because that's just the way things are with young children), but from people who don't seem to understand that you WORK from home.

The time that i can actually dedicate to working is very precious, as it's been negotiated through the maze of  motherly commitments, timetables, cooking, cleaning, clients, see, dedicated work time is often literally a case of QUICK! i can probably do an hours' work now that the kids are settled into some playtime, and there's a slim possibility they may just stay occupied during this window. Yes, i put motherhood before all else, so "time" is a complicated thing.

But some people like to just call past and "drop in" when i'm in the middle of something. This is very inconvenient, particularly when i'm recording, or in the middle of a difficult edit. Every artist knows that creativity itself can be a fragile thing, and there are many times when i have to cram my artistry into a few minutes. It's not that i don't want to see people, but i do think it's highly unlikely that a friend would just drop in to see me for a chat if i worked in an office for someone else. But because i'm "at home" i have a target on my back?

So i have made some rules, and set some boundaries. Firstly, if i don't want to be interrupted, i just wont answer the door. This has literally taken me years to feel ok about it. Sometimes, when i hear that knock or that doorbell, i feel like someone is DEMANDING i drop everything and act RIGHT NOW! I also remind my friends to call me before they visit. Some need a LOT of reminding. The children also now understand that just because someone's at the door, doesn't mean it's going to be answered. Boundaries are important. They help things run a little smoother.

So, if you're like me, trying to keep lots of balls in the air, let yourself off the hook. And if you have friends who are working like me, just pick up the phone before you hop in the car.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

You Have A Choice

When it comes to our communities, one of the most biggest concerns i have, is that people generally seem to think they don't have a choice. They feel trapped in by circumstances. They feel they can't make the changes in their life because life makes it impossible. "I CAN'T do my art because i have to work to get an income", "I HAVE NO CHOICE but to put my child in childcare, even though at the end of the day i'm only $50 better off", "I CAN'T be successful, because no-one will give me any opportunities". These are very real beliefs, with real feelings attached, and real people suffering as a result. So, are the right? Do we really have a choice?

I heard a great talk recently about work/life balance by Nigel Marsh on TED . It points out the obvious, that many people work long hours in jobs they hate to have money to buy things they don't need, to impress people they don't like. Sounds crazy, and it is, yet so many peeps find themselves in this lifestyle. Imagine if we could do things we are really good at, get paid for it, and spend more time with family and friends? Is it possible? it certainly used to be. In fact, only decades ago, a shoemaker HAD to be very good and passionate in their work in order to make a living in a small community. Carpenters needed to make things well and take pride in their work, otherwise houses would fall down, furniture would break, and he would fast run out of business. So what's changed?

Today we're surrounded by lies. These days, many businesses are concerned with covering their arse, because someone may sue them for doing a dodgy job. It's often about people trying to con their way "up the corporate ladder" to get more money to buy more expensive stuff (yes, i'm cynical, i know). It's about women leaving their babies with strangers so they can go back to work, so they can afford to put fuel in their guzzling 4WDs (SUV's) that they bought on credit for very odd reasons. And it's all based on the lie that THIS is success. More money = a better life. Try telling that to the kid, who never sees his dad because he works 6 days a week, always comes home after bedtime, and is grumpy on his day off because he is so wrecked from his job that at home he lives on a knife-edge. Try telling that to the daughter who wont learn to cook, because her working mother is so exhausted, she can only prepare pre-made dinners. Try telling that to the toddler who gets so used to having to trust everyone as she's bundled about, that she'll happily follow a stranger just because they smiled at her.

I can hear the angry mob brewing. Perhaps it's hard to take because it's true. It's hard to hear it, because most of them believe that life HAS to be this way. No choice = no change. People grow up thinking it's normal to hate their job, despise work, get frustrated with their relationship, and have no time for their family. But there are ways. No-one can change it for you. There is no wonder-plan, but if you are real enough about making some serious changes, then you can.

The most important thing about being able to change, is believing you can be empowered enough to do it. Once this idea becomes a BELIEF, you will automatically make choices which reflect that belief. It might start off small, by negotiating one day a week off, for you to spend some quality time pursuing something you love. Happier people work better, have better health, a better to live with, make batter parents, which in turn make better children. Happiness breeds happiness.

If you'd rather be doing something else, shouldn't you do something about it? And if you're not going to do anything about it, you'd be much better off starting to get happy about being where you are.