Today, I’m going to share with you a recording of me singing just before I started my very first lessons with a singing teacher in 2012.
For one, because it’s a song written by Prince and it seems like a fitting tribute to the musical genius that was, but also because in the future I plan to share more singing with you and I think it will be interesting to chart my progress. We all have to start somewhere and I think we tend to lose sight of this.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about writing, singing, my ukulele and my guitar. More specifically, I’ve been wondering why I crave each of these things in my life on a daily basis and yet deny myself them. I procrastinate and keep busy with a hundred other ‘important’ tasks, all the while wishing I were singing or writing, or could play my guitar and ukulele.
I think it’s because it’s important to me to do those things well and yet with writing comes dreading the blank page, with singing comes the fear of false notes or limited range, and with the uke/guitar comes pain in my wrists and fingers. That is the reality of the things I yearn to do. They require surrender, practice and flow, all of which I find hard to achieve.
My guitar teacher used to tell me that it was better to practise for 10 minutes every day than a whole hour once a week and I really believe that holds true no matter what it is you wish to practise.
So what I’d really need is to set aside about one hour each day that I could devote to all four of these activities. Simple, right? And yet it seems the hardest thing in the world and I don’t do it.
So I’ve been analysing the reasons for my reluctance:
- of criticism,
- of not being good enough (for whom? compared to what?),
- of finding out I have zero talent for the things I love or dream of being able to do,
- of becoming bored by the routine of practice,
- of failing to honour my commitment,
- or of finding out that I’m incapable of sticking to anything for the time it would take to get good at it
- That talent is innate: you either have it or you don’t
- That unless you can be the best at something, it’s not worth doing
- That something is not worth doing unless you have some end goal to aim for (often in today’s world that end goal is recognition, fame or money)
- That naturally talented people do what they do effortlessly. It’s easy for them. If I struggle or don’t get something right first go, then it’s because I have no talent for it and it’s not meant for me
- That I am unable to commit to daily practice
- That I am not focused enough or disciplined enough
There is so much expectation tied to it all. I can’t practise unless I can commit? What’s that about? Even if I practised something twice a month for the next ten years on random days I would no doubt be better at it is than I am today. Right?
So today I’m saying FUCK IT ALL. Who cares?? Why such a big fucking deal?
You want to sing? SING! Want to write? Write! Even if you write shit! How sad would the world be if only Man Booker Prize winners allowed themselves to write??
Four years ago when my mum died all I wanted to do was sing. At that time I really felt that nothing else could relieve me from the pain and grief I felt, so I sang.
And here today I’m sharing one of those songs with you:
It’s far from perfect and that’s entirely the point. If you’re seeking perfection or, worse still, waiting for it before you even start practising (?!), you’re worshipping a false idol. Perfection is unattainable: How do you measure it? And if it can’t be measured, how do you know when you’ve reached it?
So whatever you’re holding on to too tightly, let it go. Let it out into the world. Express it. Don’t be precious about it. Share it. Learn it. Practise it. PLAY with it.
Even people like Prince who’ve been labelled virtuosos and creative geniuses know that talent needs to be honed and they seek out masters to learn from. I think the point is to keep improving, progressing, moving forward; to keep expressing yourself and creating, even with no end goal in mind, simply because that is what you’re driven to do and because it’s fun and makes you feel ALIVE! And practise because it feels good to improve and to master something you love… not because you HAVE to, but because if you don’t do that thing you feel like an empty shell.
Prince said in an interview that he had an archive of over 300 songs that he’d never recorded and never done anything with. They existed simply because he was driven to create them.
If you are drawn to writing, write. Writing doesn’t have to culminate in a book deal. Write simply because it’s what you long and ache to do. And if you feel so inclined, release it out into the world. Even if it’s flawed, it probably has a job to do. It might not bring you fame or fortune, but who cares?
“Beauty is in everything that stirs your voice to song,
And even still it is the people, who feel your words and sing along”
Why is success or adulation the only valid reason for dedicating yourself to something you’re craving and feel driven to do?
Why do we so often feel that something isn’t worth doing unless we can be recognised for it or be the best at it?
And why do we believe that if talent doesn’t come naturally, it’s not worth pursuing?