I had a conversation with one of my singing students recently about the balance between work and play. She’d pushed herself to take every opportunity that comes her way even if she doesn’t want to do it. The whole experience had left her drained with nothing left to give and no joy left in her work. She wanted to know what to do next… She was quite surprised when I replied “do nothing, sit on your arse for a while and enjoy it!”
We have an obsession in our culture that we must be doing something all the time. We must be seen to be busy and proactive because apparently it looks good. But does constant “busyness” produce good quality fruit? As a performer, I’ve always found that there is a fine line between not enough and too much performing. There comes a point where you can fall out of love with your work and become tired of the material you sing. The joy of performing disappears and you start to wonder why you are carrying on…
Not every opportunity that is offered to us is beneficial. We need to learn that and exercise our right to say “no”. Saying no won’t make us look bad, but shows that we are in control and can exercise restraint. I’ve worked with some acts that say yes to everything and then end up letting people down. They get known as unreliable or disorganised: labels that can stick and ruin a career. The worst that can happen is that you give a bad performance because you’re so tired that you can’t perform well. Often these performances don’t help our self-esteem as we don’t feel that we’ve given our best and they leave us feeling doubtful of our abilities. Driving yourself to the point of illness won’t help in the long run, it’s not honourable to yourself, others or to God.
Sitting on your arse for a while helps you to stop and listen to how you are feeling. It can help you sort your thoughts out and see the situation clearly. The opportunity for silence has often helped me to reconnect with my creative side and ponder on the things I’d like to write about. Creativity often comes when you sit back and let it happen on its own. Also, if you get known as someone who will always do something, you only make a rod for your own back. Are you denying someone else the chance to have a go and see what skills they have? Doing nothing also gives you the chance to relax and do something that doesn’t involve work. The most interesting people aren’t those who work all the time, but those who have a life outside work because they have other experiences and interests. These outside interests can provide new routes and material for creativity.
So next time you open your mouth to say “yes” to something, stop and think! There’s a rather telling Celtic saying “do few things and do them well” A good lesson to learn…?