Last week I was talking with a musician friend about creative expression and how to get out of your own way in order to let it through.
As human beings, we are creative by nature, it’s an integral part of our biology. This doesn’t mean that we all express it in a he same manner, Einstein played with mathematics, Picasso, with paint.
My friend brought up the subject of Punk Rock. Being a classically trained, but a rock guitarist, he appreciates a finely composed song, and spends hours revising lyrics to get them just right. This made it even more out of character when he blurted out the following: “ You must be a Punk Rocker. Just pick up the fucking guitar! Don’t worry about being 100% skilled or sure of yourself, just do it with bravado! The Sex Pistols didn’t let fear or lack of musical training stop them.”
I had to laugh, and agree with him. There is wisdom in getting out of your own way to allow the creative process to happen.
We are conduits for expression.
Just go pick up that guitar!
This week I got some impromptu tutoring in music structure from my musician friend. He was tapping out the beats to a Neil Young song, and I asked why he always did that. He went on to talk about 3/4 time and 4/4 time, and explained that most popular songs are in 4/4 time.
Once I got the concept of why structurally, a waltz is different that say Neil Young, he continued by discussing his songs. “Most times, my vocals will come in on the first beat, but in many of my songs, I come in on the second, third, or even fourth beat depending on the feeling I want to convey. “You just start singing on the beat that feels right.” He said.
As I’ve been letting this marinate all week, I am struck with the profound meaning hidden in the “off the cuff” remark and a situation from years ago came back to me.
It was freshman year of high school, the first day of a music appreciation class. The teacher was outlining the syllabus and explaining his grading structure ending with “The final will be an oral report on a composer of your choice.” My brain screamed “No”, and after class I darted in to my counselor’s office. Mr Ryan told me that the other electives were full, and I would have to stay enrolled. I knew at this point that I would end up flunking because there was no way I was going to get up in front of everyone and speak.
After grades came out, I was called back to Mr. Ryan’s office to talk about my grade and how I could have done it differently. “I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stand up and give a report to the whole class. I’m too scared.” I remember saying.
“Megan, sometimes you have to face the music.” He replied. I don’t know if he meant it as a pun, but it stuck in my head because it was so unlike the way my parents spoke to me.
Just last year a friend challenged me to write some poems and speak them aloud at a local coffee shop. I told her that the idea both excited and scared the sh*t out of me, so I would commit and say yes. A few weeks later, I found myself in front of a group of maybe 18 or 20 people holding my poems, visibly shaking, but doing it anyway!
This one act may seem trivial, but to me was incredibly brave and has led to sharing my work in other venues, and actually getting published in an international poetry journal.
So many times we feel pressured to begin on someone else’s timeline. I am now asking myself and my clients:
“How would life look if I jumped in on the beat that felt right to me?”