Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Musician's Stress, schmess, make a dress

This year at PASIC there were many sessions about dealing with "musician's stress." I'm going to be honest: I didn't go to any of those sessions.  I know what happens to me when I start to get stressed out. I know what to do to help me get through it.  I know that all I have to do is get started and I'll feel better.  So, I avoided those sessions because I think I know how to handle it.  Yet it sneaks up on me, as I'm sure it does all of us.

I'm assuming the stress of which they speak is that feeling that never goes away, the feeling that says "hey, you're not practicing so you're being a terrible musician."  That's what I feel right now.  In my mind this stress is sometimes personified as a really snarky smurf-like character who just mocks all of my reasoning.

Oh, it was Christmas?  

Oh, you were spending time with family?  

Oh, you had a migraine?

Oh, you were enjoying making a gift for someone?

Oh, you were exercising for your physical and mental health?  Do you think Yo Yo Ma exercises?!?!?!

- -

For the record, I bet Yo Yo Ma exercises.

I digress.

What is it about being musicians that makes us feel like we have to be doing it all the time or should just not do it at all?  Does anyone else feel that?  

That nasty feeling is what I'd like to call Musician's Guilt, and, my friends, it is much more dangerous than musician's stress.  At least stress can be alleviated.  But guilt? Guilt can be debilitating; it can make everything else worthless; it can make you think that no effort is never enough; it can make you think that a balanced life is not a musician's life.  And maybe it isn't - I'm only 28, maybe I'm just being a big baby about the whole thing.

Guilt makes you think that a 2 hour practice is a waste of time. Only 4 hour sessions count as practice!!

Guilt makes you think that enjoying something else makes you a traitor. You like to what - sew????? 

Guilt makes you think that unless you're famous, you're doing it wrong.  You suppose people care about what you think?? They don't know who you are because you've been wasting your time.

Guilt makes you subconsciously toxic of other musicians.  You could do that, too, if you decided to practice enough.

Guilt makes you think that other areas of life don't matter.  You shouldn't go to the gym; you've yet to practice today (even though you did teach 2 classes and have 3 hours of rehearsal) DOESN'T MATTER YOU HAVE TO PRACTICE


People that decide to be musicians (although, let's be honest, it decided for us) sign up for a lifetime of pushing themselves to be better.  Those who truly answer the call of the artist know that there is no endpoint to the work we are set out to do.  Sure, we could win jobs or get great teaching positions, but the artist's work is not at all done.  Or, you would be a famous artist but never get a great teaching position - the work still isn't done.  

I thought that deciding to take on certain challenges and then meeting them to my satisfaction would help me to feel better about my own musician's guilt, but it persists.  It's still there in the back of my mind telling me that time spent doing anything but practice is wasted time, no matter how needed it may seem. 

And, even when I do have a great productive practice, it tells me that it wasn't enough,

Does anybody else have experience with this?  

Perhaps my personal nature contributes to my feelings of guilt. I'm a Virgo, I'm a naturally critical person, I'm a naturally anxious person, and I'm highly sensitive (which sometimes really helps, but other times is rather annoying).  

I don't know anything personal about Yo Yo Ma (and I'm not going to look it up cause that's creepy), but I wonder if he knows about musician's guilt.  

I kind of hope he does...otherwise, hmmmm.


Musician's guilt, schmilt, make a quilt.


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