Allow me to wrestle with a little reality. With the release of my first album on the horizon, I brace myself for the proverbial chirp of crickets. Of course, I would be over the moon if it got one listen (from someone other than my mum), but I’m one musician amongst millions. For some perspective, consider that a small record company receives hundreds of music submissions a week—to say nothing of the countless publications on the internet, every day! And here I am, making even more music; and weird music, at that. I mean, who repeats the same tune for eight minutes and has the audacity to call it music? And who writes music about airships, anyway?
The thing is, I have chosen this path and I am happy to have crickets (and my mum) cheer me on. The possibility of failure is part of any quest. Winston Churchill said: “Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” What a great line! I embrace it, wholeheartedly. I love making music and I enjoy blogging about it. In Show Your Work—incidentally, the inspiration behind this blog—Austin Kleon writes: “… the worst troll is the one that lives in your head.” Any creative person who cares about what they do, will know how true that is. He suggests using the block button. Well, Mister Head Troll, consider yourself blocked!
I’m currently reading It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be by the late Paul Arden (1940-2008). It’s one of those books I’ve had for a couple of years and never got round to reading (The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks—I resorted to the audiobook—and How to Change the World by John-Paul Flintoff are amongst them). Arden’s book is, of course, full of gems directed at creatives in the advertising world, but many of them apply to creativity in general. Arden on mistakes is encouraging: “The person who doesn’t make mistakes is unlikely to make anything.”; on getting started he is forgiving: “… failures and false starts are a precondition of success.”; and on being stuck, unorthodox: “Do the opposite of what the solution requires.” But, Arden on doing your own thing has to be my favourite:
Do not try to win awards. Nearly everybody likes to win awards. Awards create glamour and glamour creates income. But beware. Awards are judged in committee by consensus of what is known. In other words, what is in fashion. But originality can’t be fashionable, because it hasn’t as yet had the approval of the committee. Do not try to follow fashion. Be true to your subject and you will be far more likely to create something that is timeless. That’s where the true art lies.
Forgotten Fields in six words (or less)
Towards the end of the book, Arden writes about the power of a slogan when communicating an idea. It got me thinking about a slogan for my music. Describing Forgotten Fields in a single phrase is tricky—it took more than 500 words just to explain the band name! Like an album cover, a lot must be conveyed in a single communication—and unusual ideas don’t help, they can even turn people off. But, Arden’s words reminded me to be true to myself, to make the music I have to make, and to describe it plainly and frankly. When I joined the Minds social network, I wrote the shortest profile description I could think of: Sad music to make you happy. I later changed it to: Sounds of wonder and loss. To me, both phrases encapsulate Forgotten Fields. When I read them, I think: Yes, that’s what I’m trying to create!