Every day there’s the work that needs to be done — and there’s the energy it rides on. We don’t often acknowledge it, but the energy our work rides on has everything to do with the quality and quantity of our artistic output.
The energy your work rides on is your basic stance toward it.
“Have to” vs. “Get to” — the attitude you bring to your work
For your creative work there’s the practicing, the writing, the teaching. On top of that, you may also be juggling a day job and either child or elder care. And it’s all necessary if we want to maintain — or enhance — the quality of our lives and our music.
If you’ve got viable paid work now — while so many others are unemployed — your attitude may be one of relief and appreciation. You may feel glad that you GET to do this work! (That’s terrific because it will help you be happier, more creative, and more productive in the work you do.)
But many musicians don’t feel glad to do the daily grind of practicing, composing, and career-related admin work. Even though we love music and love performing, it’s the daily grunt work that many of us resent and avoid doing.
I get it. Practice can feel like drudgery.
Or like a cruel punishment we’re being subjected to in an unfair world.
For many, our negative attitude toward practice is a hold over from our childhood experience with it. As adults, we may have learned how to manage around this and get work done despite these feelings.
Only now, without the incentives of rehearsals and concerts on the horizon, regular practice may feel pointless.
Like a tree falling in a forest with no one listening, we may wonder, does it matter if I practice today? This got me asking . . .
Does having a committed daily practice make that much of a difference?
Who knew I’d find the answer on a Starbucks cup. It’s from leadership consultant Anne Morriss who offers this counter-intuitive response to those who object to daily practice. For those who feel it’s too restrictive, and that it would stifle their creativity, Anne writes:
(“The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating – in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.” —Anne Morriss)
The benefits of committing
When you commit to a practice — whether it’s yoga, meditation, or your own creative work — you make a habit of showing up at the same time every day to do your work, rain or shine, good mood or bad.
Having that habit means you no longer get up in the morning and debate with yourself over when or if you’ll practice.
Without that debate your Resistance calms down. There’s no more “bargaining” with yourself. No more saying things like “Well, I’ll just do X and Y before I practice . . .” and then of course you never get to it.
The power of habit
Having a consistent work habit means there’s no decision involved. You check the time, and you begin working because it’s time to do it. You make a daily appointment with yourself and you honor it.
Without a real commitment and a daily habit let’s face it, there’ll aways be some other activity — or person — that will call out to distract you.
This is about more than getting the work done, though. When you make a commitment and follow through with it every day, you prove to yourself that you’re trustworthy. And that you and your work are worthy of respect. And this, over time, changes how you see yourself and the challenges you take on.
Studies show . . .
In my own unofficial research, here’s what I’ve found.
The musicians who don’t maintain a regular creative work schedule report more of the imposter syndrome, low self-esteem, and feelings of guilt or shame associated with their work.
And conversely, the musicians who do commit to a consistent creative work schedule (and honor their commitments), report feeling more “on track,” centered, and energized in their work.
It’s common sense, right?
Of course you’ll have some bad days when you’re discouraged, but If you do the work daily, you’ll have statistically more positive days. Your curiosity will wake up and you’ll find yourself pulled in to your projects and engaged in creative problem solving.
In this time of uncertainty, having a committed daily practice is one of the most grounding and life-affirming things you can do for yourself.
It will, though, bring up all your Resistance. It helps to have practical tools to deal with that.
And in case you’re saying, “But I’ve got a crazy, unpredictable schedule. And because of family obligations I can’t make a daily commitment for a consistent time,” here’s the thing:
I don’t know of ANYONE who can’t find 45 minutes everyday to fit their most important creative work in. And if you truly can’t do it at your regular time for one day, you find an alternative time slot that day so you don’t lose your streak.
This is worth it because maintaining consistent work habits has a huge effect on your motivation and the momentum of your work.
Still not convinced? Ask yourself . . .
How do you want to feel about the work you do?
I don’t know about you, but I LOVE being able to get to the end of the day, knowing that I got my most important creative work done. For me, once I take care of that morning work, even if it’s just for an hour, I feel better able to handle any challenges that come up afterwards.
And I find that when I work on difficult things consistently, that I end up “happy in the struggle.”
When I wake in the morning, I’m not groaning about what I HAVE to do; instead, I’m thinking about what I GET to do. And because of that, the energy my work is riding on helps propel me forward to better work.
For more help, see Seth Godin’s terrific post on the gap between ‘have to’ and ‘get to.’
Do you have a question for me about working with your Shadow? Hit me up in our free Facebook group.
Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well