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Stay Calm And Don't Panic

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Stay Calm And Don't Panic

Things don't always work out in an artistic life. There are often roadblocks on the journey, both real and imagined. Try as you might to keep a spiritual ideal, these things can send you into panic mode. Your adrenaline kicks in and the fight or flight reflex appears. At times like these, it's easy to let your emotions, fueled by the adrenaline, get the best of you. It's important to remember to stay calm.

Shit Happens

My wife and I were driving to a recent gig that was 90 miles away. We had gone only about 15 miles when we reached a point where the west bound lanes of the highway were closed due to a tragic fatal car crash. Everything came to a halt. Sometimes we just sat, unmoving, for minutes. We had no idea as to how long the detour would take.I could feel myself tensing and panic mode creeping up on me: “We're going to be very late!” All the traffic was being rerouted, with 3 busy highway lanes of vehicles being diverted onto the 1 lane …

To Thine Own Self Be True

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As an artist, it's often difficult to keep to your vision. Everyday we are pulled away in different directions. We are bombarded with all manner of suggestions and advice: “Do this if you want to make more money,” or, “Do that if you want to be more famous.” Every internet guru has something to sell you to make your career better.

And it's not just the internet, but friends and family too. While they may be well meaning (or not), they will often go out of their way to offer unsolicited suggestions on our artistic endeavors. It's easy to feel like we are being tugged in a thousand directions, so much so that we can't focus on our art.


Practicing the Sacred
What's an artist to do?

The first thing to do is not to listen to advice or suggestions unless you've asked for them. And even if you ask for advice, you need to weigh the merits of the advice given, vs what you know to be true about your art. We are deep inside what we do. Everyone else if far outside that bubble…

Facing Your Fears In An Uncertain World

We live in uncertain times. But people have always lived in uncertain times. If there wasn't the threat of war, there was the threat of famine, or plague, or some sort of catastrophe. Today we turn on the news, or go on the internet, and we are assaulted with instant reporting of frightening events around the globe. It seems like madness is everywhere. But it's always been that way, it's just that now we are able to see things live and in surround sound on a big screen, safe in our own homes. But are we really safe? Or are we just frightened by this instant connection to the world around us.

As artists, we face fears everyday:

Will my work be rejected? 
Will I be inspired and creative today? 
Will somebody steal my ideas? 
Will somebody get more publicity or shows than me?
Will I be able to make enough money and pay my bills?
Will the world continue to fall all around me?

Many of these fears are real, but some of them are magnified out of proportion by today's instant 24/7 con…

Selling Out vs Making A Living

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I see the term selling out often used to describe some artist and their work. And most times, it's used as some sort of criticism, demeaning both the artist and their work. But I think that sometimes this criticism is misguided.

First, we need to look at what so many people think selling out means—it means doing your art for money or some other reward. But let's be real here, no one accuses the grocery clerk, or the fireman, or the school teacher, or the plumber of selling out because they get paid for what they do. That seems to be reserved for those who pursue art as a career, or at least as a serious side endeavor. Why is this? What makes art so different than any other job?



Job is why. Most people don't look at creating art as a job. They look at it as some sort of magical, spiritual, unfathomable thing. “I know you paint/dance/play music/direct films/etc. for a living, but I have to have a real job.” There's that word: real. Like being an artist is not real.

But it i…

Keeping Things Coherent

When we start out working as an artist in any sort of art form, we tend to do a lot of different things, especially copy others. Take a look at any famous artist and their early works are often derivative of others, especially the artists they admired. This is natural. We all need to get the fundamentals down and start somewhere. Emulating others is a good place to start. It takes time to find our own path.

But once an artist finds that path, they grow into their own thing. Their work takes on another dimension and they acquire their own following. And along that path, they sometimes make abrupt changes that people need time to adjust to. But these changes, if they come from within their artistic vision, are wholly coherent with who and what they are. 

Two modern musical examples are Björk and David Bowie. During long careers, they have both shifted their musical course, sometimes drastically. Björk has recorded and toured with a vocal choir, brass choir, string ensemble, electronic ins…

Faith In Ourselves, Faith In Our Art

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As artists, one thing we are often told by others is to “Have faith,” both in ourselves, and in our art. But in the face of self-criticism and doubt, faith often seems like a monumental task. Self-help books are no better, as they tell us to just “keep at it” and we can work through those doubts. But these doubts are real. The self-criticism is real. And all the monkey mind monsters that our own mind projects upon us are real.


The Buddha’s teachings direct us to analyze the mode of appearance, meaning how something appears to be, and the mode of underlying reality, meaning how something actually is—its true nature.—Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso, “The Path of Faith and the Path of Reasoning
The things that often keep us from having faith are both real and unreal. The self-doubt that keeps whispering in our ears is real to us. The voice is loud and persistent. So how can we just ignore it?

Rather than ignoring it, we need to look at it objectively. One way is to write down what it is saying and…

Don't Forget To Breathe

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As well as we may know ourselves, we can never see our selves from the outside. This is the reason even veteran athletes work with trainers and coaches. These people can spot things the athlete is doing that they don't even realize.

The same can be said for artists. Sometimes we need a fresh perspective from another person. This happened to me. As a drummer, I was having some problems with my drumming. I just didn't feel comfortable and relaxed anymore. It took a friend to notice and tell me that I was holding my breath when I played. I never noticed that, because it had become something natural to do. But by holding my breath, I was inhibiting the natural flow of things.




If you play brass or winds, the breath is integral with making your music. You are taught how to breathe with the phrasing of the music. The same can be said for string players and other musicians. But as a drummer, no one had ever discussed breathing with me. No one. So I never gave it much thought. And as tim…