It will take as long as it takes…

Last year I embarked on writing the new album; an exciting new adventure filled with lots of creativity. Or so I thought… Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE songwriting and creating new music. However, I couldn’t find my joy with it. Years of having to write to a deadline whilst under the pressure of teaching, running a business and holding a family together were beginning to catch up with me. Previously I had felt that the quality of the music I was producing wasn’t up to standard and that I hadn’t got sufficient time to think and prepare the material.

11666043_10153166177393863_2720499530418960870_nI was also becoming entangled in the machine… Constant promotion, constant reinvention, constant campaigns were getting in the way of writing and in 2013 when I went on maternity leave I made a vow that things would be different when I returned to work nine months later. I’m not decrying that these elements aren’t important, but they were beginning to supersede what I was meant to be doing. The pressure to continually produce something new was becoming immense, and in my mind this way of working doesn’t always mean quality. I’m not driven my money (if I was I wouldn’t be making music!), I’m driven by artistry and the desire to create, and represent life as I see it through music. With everything that was going on, I didn’t feel that I had done my best. Something had to give.

The journey of artistry and creativity over a lifetime is varied. Sometimes the path of creativity is exciting and sometimes it is downright boring, other times it is full of joy and then it can be excruciating. It’s messy, outrageous, quiet, dormant, unrelenting and possessive all in one go. It changes all the time, it’s never the same. For me, the only thing that stays constant is the goal to produce something of beauty that helps others.

The upshot of taking my time is that I am finally writing the songs I’ve always wanted to! I’ve got time to go deeper into the subjects that intrigue me and compose in the styles that aren’t necessarily commercial but suit the topics on my heart. I have a group of trusted colleagues that listen to my work during the writing process and give me feedback, so far their reaction has been great and they are loving the new direction that things are moving in, which means the world!

So please excuse me while I take my time, lie in a field, staring at the sky and be excessively artistic for the next few months. This will mean many trips to Starbucks while I ponder on the issues of the day and will lead to huge piles of manuscript paper being left all over my house (this really winds my family up!). I like doing my best; I want to do my best, so the new album is going to take as long as it takes… Hhhmmm that sounds like a good album title!

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…?