Raging on a Full Eight

Last night I did a wise thing.

I gave myself a night off to rest and relax.

You see, I am an artist…a writer and musician. Not necessarily a good one, but a hard-working, driven, and dedicated one. I am a strong believer that success at art is 90% PRACTICE and 10% TALENT (not that I come close to hitting that ratio…but that’s why I am not awesome, just pretty good). Relying too much on TALENT won’t get you far, though you can hobble along fooling 90% of people with just talent.

As an artist, I am self-employed. That means I am my own boss, as well as my own employee, responsible for my own livelihood, and I have to be disciplined and focused and put in a lot of time on my art to succeed at it (Note: I have ample underwriting for my art by way of a day job, but that takes a lot of time away that could be put toward art…it’s a fine balance, because you need Maslow’s basic needs met in order to be free to pursue art).

Even when I am disciplined, focused, and work long hours, I still sometimes don’t succeed, but I am getting better at saying NO to things that I am lackluster about. As Derek Sivers once said (paraphrasing), “There are only two responses to choose from when deciding whether to do something…HELL YES or NO.” That is, as a formula for where to direct your efforts, if something doesn’t make you say, “HELL YES!” then say, “NO.” There is no just plain YES. This isn’t always possible, but it is a good guideline when it is possible, in the pursuit of art. It really cuts out a lot of the BS that life throws your way.

Luckily, my boss and my employee are on the same page, most of the time, both working for the same shared vision of producing quality art (songwriting, live music performances, and written word). None the less, sometimes my employee gets tired out or distracted by less productive things. My boss has a good sense of when he can push my employee a little bit further.

For example, sometimes there is RESISTANCE to doing my art. This can take many forms from laziness to distraction. But these forms of resistance are just minor hurdles that can be overcome with the application of a bit of will power. Once I am into the doing of the art itself, I get that feeling of HELL YES that drives me to continue doing it, overcoming resistance. It is sort of like out of sight, out of mind. When the factors causing resistance are put away, the temptation to indulge laziness or distraction are eliminated.

A good boss has to recognize when downtime is legitimate though. This past week I have been pushing myself really hard, making myself work on music because of some music performances coming up and the new band I joined. This has kept me up later at night than usual, and I was a bit sleep deprived and fatigued by last night. This is different than laziness. It was legitimate fatigue. I knew that I could force myself to practice some music, and I would probably enjoy it and go late, but I also knew that my fatigued mind and body would not benefit as much from doing so. It would be like squeezing blood out of a stone, a Law of Diminishing Returns. I needed to empty the stress cup and rejuvenate a bit.

So I did. I took the night off from rocking and got an early night. The effort I had put in last weekend and earlier in the week had definitely paid off. At country band practice Tuesday night, I was on top of my parts and my vocal lines. Still, I wanted to practice on Wednesday night at home so as to solidify some of the vocal parts we decided on at practice. But I knew that would just be frosting on my already tasty musical cake, above and beyond the call of duty. I also knew my band mates would not be making any such extra small push over the cliff. Not that I should allow that to be an excuse to avoid working on the music, but I recognized that it would be overkill, and my efforts earlier in the week had given me a bit of an artistic talent SURPLUS as far as the upcoming gigs, and I now had the flexibility to spend that surplus for my own benefit.

I made a nice dinner and watched some Netflix, then I went to bed, read a little bit of the WAR OF ART, and slept a full hard eight hours. I felt great in the morning. I had emptied the stress cup and it was ready to be filled again with more hard work, starting tonight, when I will work on vocal harmonies with Tim (Eddie) of EDDIE ATE DYNAMITE. After that, I will refresh the Traveling Wilburys songs the country band is playing up north for a Halloween show on Friday night. That will keep me up pretty late, but it will be fine because I am no longer overflowing the stress cup. That will happen sometime on Friday night, after the long drive up to Minoqua WI to play the country gig. Lucky for me, that is the last music performance for a fortnight, when GUPPY EFFECT hosts a Big Lebowski themed rocknroll bowling party at Tower Lanes in Beaver Dam WI on Friday November 14. I’ll have ample time to prep for that show. GUPPY EFFECT material is pretty much honed and we aren’t adding any new material for that show. After that, I am probably not going to book any GUPPY EFFECT shows until spring, with the possible exception of the youth hockey fundraiser we often perform at in early February (do it for the children!). I hate playing shows in the winter because I hate driving in that weather and so does everyone else, which means they do not come out to shows…they hunker down at home with hot cocoa. If one of my bandmates books a HELL YES kind of show (high pay, close to home, etc.) during the winter months, I would do it. Otherwise, NO.

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