Hello friends, family, boys, girls, dogs, cats, ok- whoever is reading this, thanks for tuning in! So I'm going to dive into something a bit personal this week that some people might not look favorably upon, but I write with the intention of connecting with others who are in my place, my profession, or just want to know a bit more about the day to day life of being a musician. Anyway, I hope you enjoy, comments are encouraged!
Week 6- "How To Take Criticism (And When You Need To Stop Listening)"
Before I start, let me say that I am the worlds biggest fan of good, honest critiques, but there's a difference between that and criticism. We are going to be talking the "What if they don't like me..." question today. I will most definitely be covering the value in seeking out trusted opinions at some point, but today will be the look into the reality for most musicians; You can't please everyone. Sometimes, you can't please anyone! Sometimes you'll please your mom, your close friends, maybe even your mom/dad's coworkers, but no you will not please everyone. But, the good news is that's not your job. Your job is to make music that you absolutely love. Until very, very recently I was making music that I felt like everyone should like, instead of songs that I like writing and listening to. And no surprise, when I share the songs I actually love owning, I almost always get a better response than the songs that I "designed" to please an audience. Now, here's the part I hesitate to get into, it's going to most likely come off as self pity, but I promise I share this experience only to show musicians the light at the other end of the tunnel. Ever since 6th grade, I have struggled with immense self doubt, onstage and offstage. I fear the constant talking about me and what I perceived to be shortcomings. Reality was, those voices that I tried to run from or ignore usually never existed. I played, sang, and wrote with this tiny chip on my shoulder for so many years, citing the idea that "no one really wants me to succeed, so let me go and show them". I know now that I am wrong, I have amazing friends who support me in this endeavor, but let me focus in on the criticism aspect. Sometimes, I was subject to criticism, especially for my voice, and at a certain age, I was laughed at a good amount for having a dream. So in terms of handling that, I did a terrible job of it-let me tell you what I did. I LISTENED. I got down on myself, I would kind of pretend that I wasn't serious about my dream, that this was a hobby. I figured if I just made it seem like I was sorry for promoting my work or posting too many videos on Instagram, that people would stop talking or I would at least have a viable defense to the criticism. That behavior stripped me of the individuality that I knew I worked to own, but my only concern was being liked. Not appreciated, or listened to, just liked. I think it should go without saying that what I did was unnecessary and detrimental, but I know that I am not the only artist who has been subject to these feelings. And I am not naive, there's always going to be people who will think maybe I should stop writing, or stop singing, maybe stop playing music altogether. But here's the difference now, I make music for me and show it to the people who I know can use it. That sounds cocky, but I'm not rephrasing. I have been writing things that I fall asleep singing at night and I can dwell on my own lyrics because they carry real sentimental value to me, they are no longer just marketing based. That's not to say I've never written honest songs, I have a handful from the past, but I finally found my place of peace musically, and that's the point of this weeks post. When you hear that awful thing someone said about your music, realize that the one's you're out to please are the people who will be affected the same way you were writing it. If someone reaches out to you with a good critique- "I really liked this, but maybe you can try (insert fantastic idea here)", then you owe it to them because they have actually digested your music the way you wrote it to be. Don't ever turn those people down. But if they put you down, try to take away from your creativity or freedom, you need to understand that your happiness should not be being held in their hands. You determine that, only you. Artists thrive on expression, it's the central principle and the reason to partake. I understand the obvious "Well how are you going to make a living" question, but I will promise it's not from writing songs you don't believe in. I know this post was more emotional than informative, but that's kind of what I want anyone reading this to understand- emotion is what draws people in. It's not the only way of communicating to an audience, but it is the most visceral thing we can offer as artists. If you want to silence the critics, silence the demons in your mind, that's always going to be the real issue. If you write through those, jump off the edge of the cliff, there's a group of fans waiting to catch you.
Truthfully, I've never been more excited for the future. I have music that feels the right way, I have a direction for it, and I know I have amazing friends out there who will provide the best audience I could ever want. So I know this post really was all over the place, but thank you so much for reading, and I will see you all next week!