Afraid to Be Yourself and Make Great Music? This Might Help You Get Unblocked.

Have you ever wished you could be someone else?

Someone for whom a particular skill or quality just seemed so easy, whether it was their warmth and positive energy, insightful and keen wit, or freewheeling dance moves?

Meanwhile we bemoan our inner Eeyore  and cringe at past memories of uncomfortable attempts at humor  and awkwardness on the dance floor  and wallow in a downward spiral of self-doubt and discouragement.

How do we navigate around this tendency to underestimate ourselves and overestimate everyone else?

Art and self-worth

As artists, we spend a large portion of our lives honing our craft. With so much time and energy invested in the very personal creation of our art, naturally, it begins to seep into our identity and becomes a big part of how we define and value ourselves.

So when our work is rejected, it is difficult not to feel that it is a rejection of us. Of the very core of who we are – and our worth as people.

For us to pour our heart and soul into something and have the world say that it’s not worth much?


It can make us afraid to try again. Afraid to be so personal and share so much of who we are in our next creative effort.

Over time, it can be tempting to close ourselves off a bit, to be safe and aim for the middle, shield ourselves from rejection and put a little less us in what we offer up to the world.

The problem of course, is that this sort of works. At least in the sense that the world is less likely to point a finger at us and call us out. But not because we’ve made something great, but because we’ve blended in, and the world doesn’t really see us anymore.

But then we run across an artist who courageously puts themself out into the world, and we realize how deeply we want this as well. To have the courage to be ourselves, no matter what the world might think. That this is art-making.

As David Bayles and Ted Orland say in Art & Fear, “To the critic, art is a noun. To the artist, art is a verb.”

Alter egos

What would be possible for you to create, if you let go of yourself for a moment, with all your perceived limitations, baggage, and concerns about what others might think?

This is easier said than done, of course.

But then I saw a TED talk by artist Shea Hembrey, which is hilarious, and might just be totally brilliant. Take a look:

In much the same way that it’s easier to develop new positive habits than it is to erase old unproductive habit, what if, like Hembrey, we created an alter ego for ourselves? Complete with name, backstory, and mission in life?

What kind of music would that person produce? How would that person play? What kind of music would that person program? How would that person carry themselves?

Would this be freeing, even for a moment, giving us a glimpse of our potential lying just beneath the fear?


Maybe this last bit is a stretch, but online community company Disqus has found that users who utilize pseudonyms (i.e. adopted identities like BurntToast or MonkeyBiz) contribute more and higher-quality comments online than those who reveal their actual names, and those who choose to remain anonymous. Perhaps there is something about taking on a different identity which allows us to reveal a different side of us without fear of rejection…

Take action

How would you implement this into your own music-making?

I’m curious – are there composers out there who have tried something like this?

photo credit: Innocent Coppieters via photopin cc

Ack! After Countless Hours of Practice...
Why Are Performances Still So Hit or Miss?

For most of my life, I assumed that I wasn’t practicing enough. And that eventually, with time and performance experience, the nerves would just go away.

But in the same way that “practice, practice, practice” wasn’t the answer, “perform, perform, perform” wasn’t the answer either. In fact, simply performing more, without the tools to facilitate more positive performance experiences, just led to more negative performance experiences!

Eventually, I discovered that elite athletes are successful in shrinking this gap between practice and performance, because their training looks fundamentally different. In that it includes specialized mental and physical practice strategies that are oriented around the retrieval of skills under pressure.

It was a very different approach to practice, that not only made performing a more positive experience, but practicing a more enjoyable experience too (which I certainly didn’t expect!).

If you’ve been wanting to perform more consistently and get more out of your daily practice, I’d love to share these research-based skills and strategies that can help you beat nerves and play more like yourself when it counts.

Click below to learn more about Beyond Practicing, and start enjoying more satisfying practice days that also transfer to the stage.


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