Thoughts on the inclination to do well.....
“Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's a heaven for?” - Browning...
I understand that there is a drive in every musician to be great. The willingness to endure the painful endeavor of being highly self critical in a way that better musical performance is not something that any content individual possesses. There is a whisper inside the mind of an artist that is always murmuring under hushed breath, "more". At least, this has been my experience.
Browning's words suggest that the insatiable need for 'more' is what makes one great. Similarly to the Malcolm Gladwell maxim of the 10,000 hours rule, the ability to grind and grind until one has reached their breaking point is a part of the GREAT ARTIST'S fabric. Why is it that the composers of the great canon always descend into madness and wind up dying of syphilis having been recently abandoned by their manipulative therapist? Perhaps there is something to this.
I believe that there is a somewhat of a common thread amongst all those who sacrifice so much for the sake of their art; the small voice.
In my own work as a composer I have often experience a sense of discontent for my place in the professional world. Why is my music not being performed? Why am I not receiving certain commissions? What is it about my music that won't spread like wildfire? These are the questions that, knowingly or unknowingly, govern a lot of my musical thought. This dialogue between myself and I is what I often refer to as, the small voice. It is that bit of myself that consistently inserts itself into many of my own thoughts and feelings concerning my career.
I believe the small voice is responsible for the following things, good and bad:
1) Productivity- It challenges me to finish a great deal of work
2) Professional Instinct- convincing me to approach individuals of note in the name of professional 'networking'
3) Jealousy- It often causes me to envy and covet the music and status of others
4) Economical Writing- Helps me rationalize what can be kept or thrown out depending upon the piece and its predetermined direction and character.
5) A bad work/life balance- The small voice does not care about free time or seeing a movie or escaping to the trail on a run. It wants more of what it wants..... whatever that is.
You see how these areas can create potential for any one person to lose stability. The small voice is not a dominating force, but it exists in little nudges that, from time to time, begin to overwhelm the more sensible portion of the brain. The one that appreciates quiet moments in life with your loved ones as you explore what it means to be human, together. Should the scale tip too far one way, I could find myself on the other side of wanting more, and more, and more; which would be drowning.
And so I continue the never ending journey for balance in life. Not only between my personal life and composing, but between the hours of any given day that my brain spends obsessing over matters that are not relevant in any one particular moment. Of course, there are always ways in which this obsessive nature can be applied towards being a professional musician, but WHERE is the line!?
I'll continue to find ways to quiet the small voice so that it exists only when I need it to..... There is no perfect balance in life. So I will continue to 'green light' the drive in me that so often tells me to incessantly push forward. More, more, more. Breakdowns are inevitable, and it is from those situations that I learn the most about what I do and who I am as a musician. There is great power in accepting that there are things that you cannot change about yourself, only things that you can TRY to change. So I'll continue to try and shift my mindset for the betterment of my music. Until I reach a moment where I feel sound in my belief in myself and my ability to create, I'll continue to set my sights on something bigger than what may be possible.
Perhaps Browning was on to something.....
Here's to reaching.....