Having an achiever personality, I LOVE To-Do lists. Feeling productive is on par to the most superb cup of coffee. It is one of my favorite things. Every checked-off item states to the world and myself that "I was here and did things" and can't wait to wake up and do it all again tomorrow. It makes me a great student and an excellent employee. But one of the hardest and most confounding things that I've ventured to do is tackling the world of Entrepreneurship: subcategory: Professional Musician.
There are no rules. Actually, there are a million of them. There are hundreds of books and models, courses and advice blogs. It's overwhelming and terrifying on one side of the spectrum and completely glorious and exhilarating on the other. Other than pulling up your big girl pants and stumbling through it, there's really no other way to tackle the beast. You ready yourself for the reality that you'll probably do it badly, even if giving it your best. I've found myself saying out loud to other artists that I should never write a book on music business. My model is terrible--on paper.
Why? Because the art won't let me control it. Every time (and I mean EVERY time) I try and put plans in place to become more "successful" (read: strategies, 5 year plans, monetary stability, spread sheets) I become incoherently miserable. Not that organization and vision aren't necessary in business--they desperately are. But when the focus becomes success through money, instead of what the art is supposed to be used for, it slaps me across the face, stops talking to me and waits for me to apologize. Every. Time.
So then it's back to the drawing board of "How do you define success, Teresa?" Ugh. My American Dream upbringing combined with the 80's social experiment of "You can be anything you want to be!" starts arguing with my favorite Mother Teresa quote about God calling us to be faithful, not successful, so much so that I get lost in all the shouting. It's then that I have to go back to basics. Where does inspiration come from? What about music brings life? What am I doing this for?
In the 2 years where I felt music died, I was completely surprised by the accidental avenues happiness came from. Out of nowhere, I found myself incredibly happy when planting and tending my flowers. I was thrilled beyond belief that yes, I could lose 20lbs if given a plan and a map. I never knew I would love cooking for myself and my husband to the point where it's one of my favorite things to do every day. I never thought I could ever love running, let alone experience the exhilaration from running farther than I ever thought possible. I was blown away by the grace, joy and insight that came from spending an hour with Jesus in adoration a couple times a week. During that time-off, I experienced the profound joy of a simple life. I wasn't pursuing anything other than what God had put in front of me and I was, dare I say, blissfully happy.
During that time, I learned so much about where real love of life comes from that when music was dramatically resurrected, the only thing I cared about was not losing the peace, joy and perspective I had gained during the time off.
For me and my journey, Art has always imitated Life. When my life is full, my art is full. When my life is a mess, so is my art. So when I reach for career advice, ultimately, I reach for the Saints. Their focus was on their soul's relationship with God, following the Lord's call in their lives to the fullest expression and holding everything lightly, especially the outcome.
As a dear friend of mine put it, "As artists, we are asked to serve the world with our art, not conquer it." When I remember this and run fully toward the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the inspiration comes back, the To-Do list writes itself and I am reminded that I, too, am only being asked to be faithful.