SOLO ARTISTS AREN'T SO SOLO
We Americans idealize independence. Even the most socialistic, progressive people I know can get down on themselves when they can’t hack it and get things done all alone. It's a weird thing we've all convinced ourselves of. We know deep down in our guts that we need people. Loneliness has a purpose: it tells us that it's time to reach out to people. But instead of reaching out when we're feeling down or lonely, we think, "No, I've got to do it on my own." Nonsense! I KNOW this stuff. I studied couple and family therapy – all about the importance of connection and how people interact and help each other and I STILL hate on myself for not being able to get stuff done when I try to exist in a vacuum. Reprogramming your brain is hard.
I work with people all the time who think they have to do it all on their own. I think a lot of our struggle comes from this belief. I'm always asking my clients who they can reach out to. Whatever it is we're working on, other people can help. At some point in our work, they often say, “Hey, Lauren. I just realized that when I involve someone else I’m able to really stick to my guns and get stuff done!” I congratulate them and often laugh and say, “Who knew?! Oh wait, that’s what we’re doing right now!”
But that’s the difference between knowing a thing and actually doing a thing. It only gets into your bones when you actually do it. You can say you know you need other people until you’re blue in the face, but when you’re struggling with your creative output do you beat yourself up for not being able to do it alone? Or do you tell someone about your plans and ask for advice?
Here’s how connection helps me creatively:
I haven’t made much solo music in the past year. It’s been a rough year. But being in my bands and having people ask me to compose, arrange, or perform for their events has kept me going. I am SO thankful for them because making music keeps me sane. Plus, being asked to do new and different things inspires me to think differently about my work. I try out new instruments. I write in ways I’ve never written before. It helps me EXPAND. Because believe it or not, I can be really stubborn and boxy about what I like and what I want to create. (I can hear my best friends sarcastically saying “OH REALLY?”) So, when someone asks me to try something new, I try to check in with myself. There are clear YESes and NOs… and then there are the fearful, scoffing NOs. The ones that say, “Oh, I’ve never done that before. Why are they asking ME? That’s SO not a thing I do!” I try to follow the fear and attempt the thing I scoffed at. It might not work out, but I get to do something different and new and stay fresh with my ideas.
It usually does work out, though. Maybe not in the way I expected, but it pays off somehow. With new ideas or recognition. Always with new friends or deeper connections.
So, if you find yourself stuck and saying to yourself ,“WTF, why can’t I ever get anything done on my own?!” Remind yourself that no one does it on their own. Not even writers! (Although you all probably have the least collaborative art.) Even the most hermity creators experienced life with others at some point. They read other people’s books, listened to other people’s music, saw other people’s works and were inspired to make their thing.
Remind yourself of this and then go tell someone about it - preferably another creator. Share your struggle. At the very least you’ll probably get a little commiseration around it. At the most, you’ll get an offer of help or maybe even a new idea.
So what's your struggle? Share in the comments! Maybe someone will read it and help you out.