The past couple days have been quite challenging for my life. In my epitome of discouragement, I came across a book my best friend Jenna gave to me before I left for Germany. It is called “The Crowd, The Critic, And The Muse” by Michael Gungor. I recommend this book to ANY artistic/creative musical soul. You have not LIVED until you’ve read this book. God has this way of always putting books in my path, when I need to read them the most. I’d like to dedicate this following reflection to all my dearest brothers and sisters who have ever felt like the following, and need some encouragement in their creative artisticness.
Pg. 25 The Crowd, The Critic And The Muse
“ That night, I decided to stop singing. After the concert, I didn’t sing a not for anyone for four years.”
Four years! She didn’t even insult me. She just didn’t compliment me. This is how fragile the ego can be in connection with our creative expressions. The critics voices is so powerful because it resonates with the voices of our deepest fears, those voices speaking from inside of us, telling us that we are not good enough. The critics confirm our repressed and terrified suspicions that we don’t measure up, that we are unsafe and unlovable.
We can hear “Bravo!” from ninety-nine voices, but they don’t mean nearly as much as the “Eh” from the one. The voice of the critic can be like a hot dagger that reaches the heart quickly and surely…But the critic’s voice is untrustworthy…the voice that I heard that night from my grandma’s lack of compliment said “You are worthless as a singer. YOU SHOULD STOP SINGLING FOREVER. In reality what she was probably thinking was more like, “That performance was not very good. You need to work harder.” Or perhaps, she didn’t even realize that she hadn’t said anything to me and didn’t think much about it either way. But whatever it was, I heard something else. This is how it works with the voice of the critique. It is untrustworthy; more is always heard than spoken.
Creators are prone to listening too intently to the voice of the critic. We change ourselves and our art to please the critic so that we can feel safe, feel like we are worth something. But the critic doesn’t care about your work in the same way that you do. The critic’s voice is most often the voice of the preoccupied, a voice concerned with its own issues and its own ego. You are just a brief flicker on its radar screen. “
The voice of the critic is not sturdy enough to build your work on. It’s too fickle, too fleeting.”
Lately, my heart has really resonated with the following passage. As a passionate artist when it comes to music and artistic painting expression I am reminded of countless incidences in my life where I simply had those thoughts of “YOU SHOULD STOP SINGING FOREVER”. Coming from my situation of life, I’d say my musical soul is VERY fragile. I’ve had moments where musical life has gone well, and those moments of life where I just wanted to die on the spot and never show my Lietuve face in public again. What I’ve noticed in my life as a general trend culturally, we are SO AFRAID to admit that we have “failed”. For me I never believe we have “failed” at life. As long as you have blood flowing through your veins, you’re breathing….You’re still ALIVE……… Growing up in a culture where “failure” is highly looked down upon, I believe it forms this mindset that is unrealistic. It’s always a blessing to come across books and articles where musicians/artists, share their successes and FAILURES. It’s like “PRAISE GOD! THEY FAILED AND WERE ABLE TO GROW AND LEARN FROM IT!!!!” I sometimes feel like I’m the only one in the world who has failed musically. Personally, I think it’s best to hear both perspectives not just solidly one or the other.
I know me, growing up I always doubted my singing. It’s that little voice I heard as a child, “Oh, your voice is nice, but you should focus on something else….” When I accepted Christ when I was 8, looking back 12 years ago, He clearly anointed my life with the passion to sing. It was that voice inside my soul that even if I wanted to stop singing and ignore it I couldn’t. I look back and there are SO SO SO many “failing” situations vocally that could have made me never want to sing again, but I encourage you dear friend, even when it’s hard and the critic’s voice is MURDERING your SOUL keep persevering, keep pushing through and God will bless you for holding on to the very last moment. I honestly don’t know why I held on to my passion for singing so long.
So with that said, just thought I’d share with you some of my musical stories, that I can now look back upon and sweetly laugh.
I remember when I was around 8 I started taking piano lessons. For most children piano is something that you eat, breathe and sleep from where I grew up. Over the years, my heart learned to greatly despise this instrument. There was just something about playing the piano that reminds my soul of so many musical scars. Performing in public was one of them. I hated recitals. Piano recitals were like a death sentence to me. I remember when I was about 15, and I played the variation of “Amazing Grace”. I held onto the pedal for too long, and it totally killed the song. I was in a gym auditorium so the sound quality was terrible to begin with…..I just walked off the stage in horror thinking that I would never be able to play such a common melody again.
Also, I remember I had to memorize and sing the song “Porcelain Heart” by Barlow Girl. It was a very hauntingly poetic moving song, and as an 8th grader anything past the high C was a struggle vocally. There was this particular part in the song
“Creator, only you take brokenness, and create it into beauty once again”.
I totally murdered that part of the song. My high C was scratchy, raspy, nervousness kicked in….Ahmen to Ahmen. And knowing my soul, for me to murder an artistic poetic line that inspires my heart is such a devastating feeling.
I remember when I was 18 and I decided to sing the song “Before the Morning” by Josh Wilson. I only practiced the song for a few weeks, it was kind of a last minute vocal decision…. My piano teacher started playing the melody, but it was too fast, and I sang part of the song in the wrong key….I think. I performed this song in front of my entire highschool, so as you can guess I just wanted to melt and die and never show my face again. To make it worse, I remember I was also hoping to impress this guy that I liked at the time…..so much for that…….SIGH….God has a cute sense of humor. To this day, I still can’t sing that song without my heart feeling so traumatized.
These are just a few of the many examples of what I once thought were “musical failures”. I’m learning that it’s okay for those moments of life to happen. These moments happen so God can grow us more to be like Him. We learn lessons we otherwise would have not learned. Coming from a European culture perspective, I feel like as a child perfection was required, it was not an option. I know especially in Europe, standards for music and art are very high, so it’s easy to become discouraged and hide your creativeness inside. This is a place in my heart where I believe God has called me to be a voice for my dearest European/Russian brothers and sisters. I may not be Beethoven or Mozart, but I FIRMLY BELIEVE if God has given you a heart to express yourself creatively through music or art or whatever, then EXPRESS YOURSELF. Excuse my language, but Don’t give a SHIT at what people are going to think. Even if they judge you. Honestly, to BLOODY HELL with what they think. I know for me for the past several years, I have been struggling with what people think of me as a musician and an artist. It’s a battle in my heart and soul every day, but with Christ, I do my best to overcome it and pray for strength to NEVER stop expressing myself for His glory.