From time to time, performers and creatives undergo periods of intense self-criticism and insecurity. February was that kind of month for me, which was unfortunate, because despite being the shortest month of the year, I did quite a bit of singing (and, therefore, quite a bit of self-flagellation).
I’ve been at this singing thing long enough to know that these bouts of “Imposter Syndrome” are a natural, unavoidable occurrence, and that (perhaps most maddening of all) they are often the precursor to a new period of creative growth. Nonetheless, it’s all too easy to let the voices of negativity drown out the music, and when that happens, a good talking-to from a wise friend is in order.
Fortunately, a good talking-to from a wise friend is exactly what I got one evening. My friend Evan, a brilliant clarinetist, laughed when I told him how frustrated I was feeling with myself and my singing. We had a gig coming up in a few days and I was disproportionately anxious about it.
“This isn’t that important,” he said. “I mean, think about it: anything could happen. Next week’s gig could be the last time you see either me or [pianist] Ehud. Is this neurotic shit what you want to be thinking about while we’re making music together? Just relax. It doesn’t matter that much.”
When our Mezzrow gig rolled around a few days later, I gave myself permission to not care one whit about being a great (or even a particularly good) singer. Instead, I decided, I’d just enjoy the beauty of the songs and the exuberance of Ehud and Evan’s playing. A crazy thing happened: not only was that evening the most fun I’d had on the bandstand in some time, it was actually one of the better performances I’ve given in recent memory.
Now, halfway through March, spring feels closer than ever. The seeds have been sown for a couple of new projects, and I’m going to do my best to carry Evan’s advice with me into the weeks and months ahead.
In February, I…
Blogged about: Bupkis. Nada. No writing whatsoever. Note to self: stagnation in creative output, however small, leads to neurosis, as evidenced by this entire post.
Read: Immunity, by Taylor Antrim and The Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradal, both of which I wanted to enjoy more than I actually did. The big winner was Vintage, by David Baker, a hilarious, poignant, and extremely well-written debut novel about a down-on-his-luck Chicago food writer on a wild goose chase for an elusive Burgundy.
Watched: House of Cards. Flawlessly written and acted. Completely addictive. I can’t wait to dive into the new season.
Listened to: Sinatra/Jobim: The Complete Reprise Recordings. The most iconic male vocalist of the 20th century, singing some of the most beautiful songs ever written, with string arrangements by Claus Ogerman. Yes, please.