The resolution of an ex-musician

by Rachel Cook

In introduction
Today, ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about how I lost my creative way. Cripes. Yes, it is a bit wallow-y, but I’ll try to keep it brief.

I did wonder, by the way, whether the Thompson blog is really the best place to spill my guts on my feelings on this matter, but my conclusion was yes (obviously). Because what better place could there be to talk about creativity, but here?

Oh and by the way, don’t worry, it’s not one of Thompson’s amazing designers/devs saying this. I’m happy to report that the creative standard with them remains as high as ever. No, it’s just me, Rachel, an Account Manager, talking about my life-long love that I’ve sadly let go, but plan to bring back…

An ex-musician
What does it take for you to stop introducing yourself as a creative? Surely that’s something that’s just IN you, through and through? That’s what I thought. But this Christmas I met tons of new people and noticed that I had started to introduce myself just as Rachel who works for a brilliant branding agency. I explain what that means (we do logos and stuff), and tell them I’m spoiled because I really love my job. We move on.

Now, whilst that’s all true, a small voice in the back of my head wanted to chime in that I’m also a singer, songwriter and musician. One of those creative people who wakes up and wants to change the world a little bit, for the fun of it and because I feel like I just have to.

That’s the way I’ve always been until now. It’s the reason I went to music college and chased the dream of being a singer-songwriter for years and years. And despite the love I have for the creative process in my job, that feeling of wanting to create in a musical way hasn’t stopped. So why have I trimmed my introduction of those extra details?

A brief wallow
I’ll tell you why. It’s because I couldn’t tell you how many months it’s been since I stood on stage and performed. Wait…it’s been 8 months. And the less said about that gig the better…

It’s because I don’t have any gigs in the diary. At all. Not one. Nada.

It’s because I haven’t written a new song in much, much longer still (in case you count 12 bars on July 4 2015, which I don’t).

It’s also because I’m worried that I’ve forgotten how.

Excuses, excuses
But why has this happened? Well, it’s a bit chicken/eggy, really. But however it came about, the upshot is that I’ve slowly stood by and watched my musical momentum fade to an undeniable standstill, and with it my confidence in my ability to create musically. All of that fire has been replaced by other things – but mainly lots and lots of excuses. I haven’t got time; I’m out of the loop; everyone else is doing the same thing but better; they’re younger than me; I don’t have a piano any more so how can I write?; I need to get a band together; I need a new stage name; it costs too much money; I don’t have a website; it’s the wrong time of year, and… What if I fail?

That last one is what it comes down to really. It takes a while to see the rest of those excuses for what they are: things to hide behind, because you’re scared of failing.

As a bonus, all this emo introspection has also helped me to spot the same thing going on around me all the time in others. I now find it easier than ever to spot people debating whether to try out a new venture, a new idea or a new answer, but dismissing it as something that won’t work before they even get off the starting blocks. They think they’ve thought it through and worked out that it’ll fail, so there’s no point trying it, but really? Well, it’s easier to just not try than to work out how to fall and get back up again. So they sit tight and keep doing what is safest, and what they know they can pull off, and let the fun of ‘What If?’ fall by the wayside. I say that confidently because that’s what I’ve done. Though at least I can feel somewhat comforted by the fact that some of the people around me have even more excuses than me.

  • The old ‘leopard/spots’ analogy
    I regret that it’s taken me quite so long to realise that, actually, I can’t just STOP being a musician, just because deep down I’m a bit scared of doing it by myself and failing.

    And I’ve realised that not referring to myself as a musician doesn’t change who I am either. If a leopard calls himself a cat, does that mean he’s just a lapcat, and not a badass leopard? Does that mean he can stop, you know… leoparding around?

    So in (self-indulgent) summary, SOD IT. 2016 is the year that I go back to being the way I’m supposed to be, and stopping the excuses in their tracks.

    Favours will be called in, yes, some money will be spent, but that’s ok. I’ll quickly remember the simultaneous terror and brilliant opportunity that comes with blank manuscript paper. I’m already looking forward to the late nights and self-flagellation that writing and recording bring. And I can’t wait to once again introduce myself as Rachel, AM extraordinaire, singer and songwriter – no excuses.

    Good lord this was self-indulgent. I’m off to write a song.

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