The Smoother Ride

I am enjoying watching other people’s lives unfold. It’s nice to see from an outside perspective how a career can appear to be slowing down, in a drought with no clear path forward and suddenly BOOM! A great job comes in. Everything changes – at least for the duration of that job, and suddenly things are back on track (wherever that track may appear to lead).

It’s a key driving force for performers in the theatre industry – you never know what’s around the corner, and it’s true to a degree. I am growing tired of living life like this however. Is “what’s around the corner” any better truly, than what exists now? It’s nice to feel that you are getting somewhere – but where is somewhere? Can you ever be anywhere but here? (Thanks JRB)

That said, it’s a thing of beauty when someone you know who has worked, grafted and struggled, suddenly has a career shaping moment – they get THE JOB. The sense of relief is not only financial, but life affirming. I am in the system, I have value and worth, I belong in the industry. The industry wants and values me. I EXIST.

When we got our first round of Arts Council funding last year, I had this moment. I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I was almost sick. It felt as if I was given a big gift and the tide had come in for once. I’m not gonna lie, I really needed this to happen. My celebratory mood was quickly replaced however by the fear of going into the unknown (loved Frozen II), and then panic at how to make our budget and plans a reality. It didn’t last long, and low and behold the mundane crept back in. It’s the mundane that now interests me and I want to feel better “in between” jobs. I don’t want the highs to be as high and I don’t want the lows to be so low.

Take me back to my twenties and I would had said that this was a boring way to live. I would have worried that I wasn’t edgy enough, I wasn’t damaged enough, I was living too comfortably and needed some drama to make good art. Feeling better about my everyday life makes me work better, be more efficient, and less reliant on outside elements to bring me happiness. I don’t think there is such a thing as a permanent state of happiness as it comes and goes like other emotions, but I do think that you can feel more alive and connected. I want to experience things on a deeper level. Does this mean that the big, life changing events mean less? Not necessarily. It just means that there is less of a rollercoaster. I don’t want to be bashed around back and forth anymore. I’ll take the smoother ride please.

Moving Forward

Moving Forward

4 years ago, I hit a wall. It’s the second time as an adult that this has happened to me, and both times it has felt insurmountable. I seemed to have lost all belief in myself and my abilities. I had a tiny glimmer of a spark, but it felt far away, distant and out of reach. I remember talking to a lady who does reiki and things like that, and she asked me what was holding me back? I couldn’t answer.

I was working in a teaching job at the time, I had been in for over a decade. This job came as a result of burnout from working in the city, running my own agency, “living the dream” and trying to convince myself that I could work in a high pressure marketing job. The jobs in the city were as a result of hitting the first wall with my music career, so I felt a million miles away from what I had originally embarked upon.

In this second wall hit, I was looking at friends and their successes, watching their lives coming together. It seemed that they had the answers and I didn’t – that they knew how the play the game and I was there flailing around, with no sense of direction. I felt numb but overwhelmed, and with no belief that my situation would change.

This small spark, that the reiki lady had helped me identify, kept glowing. I started to feel an urge to create, to make something, and instead of shutting this down, I tuned into it and began to write. I started slowly at first, dipping my toe in the water, feeling overwhelmed to stop, but I kept going. I played my partner (who is a songwriter / producer – no pressure!) one of my ideas, preparing to be crippled by searing insecurity by how shit it was, but instead I felt strangely centred and energised – still nervous, but like I was tapping into something good. I pushed on. Lots of ideas came and went – like bubbles forming and bursting, many of them were never finished. I was reminded of a song I wrote years ago, which I was never happy with but that I liked – a song called “In Your Eyes”. I still felt it had something, but didn’t know at the time of writing what it needed. Now I did. Finishing this song was really bloody hard however. I had no confidence in my ability to finish something, I doubted my choices – should I use this lyric? Should I change to this chord? Is this just embarrassingly awful? What is the point? But I carried on. My partner helped with one line that I was stuck on – even allowing his input was hard – did this mean that I couldn’t finish something on my own? Was I weak? Not talented? A joke? Seriously – the amount of negativity in my head was overwhelming. But, on I pushed. The songwriting continued and the song was finally finished.

Writers talk about the importance of finishing stuff – yes indeed. Finishing this song (even though it is being reworked again now), was super important and gave me confidence to continue writing. Knowing that I could finish something, that I still had the ability, that I wasn’t a total failure, was powerful and gave me just enough energy to keep moving forward.

Sing For Yourself and No One Else

Sing For Yourself and No one Else

Had a fantastic performance workshop with the Broadway composer Adam Guettel in June of this year. He was inspiring and VERY experienced, and reconfirmed something that I have felt for a long time, and feel evermore passionate about now. “Sing for yourself and for no one else”. What does this mean exactly?

Well, singing for me, was and still is a very personal experience. I used to sing as a kid without even knowing I was singing – I’d hum along to things, making up my own tunes, soothing myself, singing when I went out on a walk, singing whilst skipping etc. I didn’t know that this was a “thing” or that anyone would judge me for it or that it had any particular value. I just sang because I sang – similar to speaking really. Somehow along the way, this came into focus and I found myself starting to place value on how and what I sang. I remember going to a local dance school and students there were getting solos and performing songs in front of audiences. This felt like a strange concept to me – I never thought that I could sing, so much as I just did it spontaneously, I suddenly started to question the value of what I was doing, why I didn’t sound like the other girls and if I was doing something wrong. Quantifying a thing that is so personal, felt strange and unnatural. 

In this current climate of singing competitions, qualifications, grading, there is so much sectioning off, measuring, quantifying, valuing, exploiting, shaping, moulding, quaffing, messing, it’s hard to remember why you got into performing in the first place. Everyone has their reasons but there must have been some joy in it initially….

If you choose to sing in front of people or not, that joy and self expression has to have a place there. The connection firstly needs acknowledging, nurturing and forming with yourself, like a bond, like your closest friend, like delving deep into yourself. Even if you have sung the same song a million times, this can still be there. If you make this connection with yourself, I have a feeling that this connection will then be seen and felt by your audience – whoever they may be. If they like and respond to what you are doing then great, what a bonus. If they don’t, then hey, you have lost nothing. You STILL have your connection and your centre. Perhaps you could be that one constant and reliable source in a room of strangers? Perhaps, even in a pressurised audition situation, you could somehow connect with that very personal part of yourself and dare to show it? Dare to go there? It takes guts though, believe me, but what’s the worst that could happen? It would be great if we all really didn’t give a shit about what other’s felt or thought about us. I love that idea.