SCP: A Break

Where do I start?  It has only been three weeks since I posted my last song, but it feels like months.  I have been putting this update off, and like any good procrastination the longer you keep it up it the harder it becomes to start again.

I broke my song-chain, which is the first thing I should get off my chest.  I got a few days behind after my routine was disrupted with illness, almost caught up, and then at some point I just stopped.  I spent my time practicing guitar and electric bass, studying Czech language and generally taking a break.  I've decided not to try and catch up, instead I'll just write off the break, and continue on from this point.  I'm trying not to beat myself up for the missed days, especially as I've come so far since I started.  And besides, they only represent about 5% of my 365 day target, which is barely anything at all.

There were lots of things on my mind during the break, as I feel my life is approaching a junction.  The last time I felt this way was while making the decision to go back to university to study music.  Around that time my sister Bianca told me to write down my ideal day, from waking in the morning to going to sleep at night.  The idea was then to start rearranging your life so that you were eventually living that day.  I still have my ideal day in an old notebook, and it very closely resembles my routine now, but the reality falls somewhat short of the ideal.  While I am far more satisfied with my life as a freelance musician than any of the other careers I've held, the uncertainties that come with life as a creative freelancer have begun to take their toll.

I was 28 when I started my music degree, and by that stage in life many of my friends had begun to tick off the items on the list that mark you as a grown up in Australia: marriage, mortgage and babies.  While these are things I would like for myself, I wanted far more to pursue an artistic career, and so I made the choice to take that path instead.  I don't regret it, and am content with the sacrifices I have made, but my choice is at odds with the cultural status quo in this country. This is reflected in the media, in government policy and funding decisions, in dealings with real estate agents, in the endless stream of home-improvement reality shows that always seem to be playing when I'm waiting in the fish and chip shop, and in the conversations that reveal what much of our society is thinking: that art is something you have a bit of fun with until it's time to get a real job.  

I am finding that it takes a great deal of energy and conviction to continue pursuing a freelance artistic career in such an environment, and this takes its toll.  It is not impossible, however, which Nicole Canham's insightful and inspiring Peggy Glanville-Hicks address explores:

The challenge now is not to match our skills to the available jobs.  This paradigm is dying out.  Today, the single-most influential factor in designing a satisfying and sustainable working life in 21st century knowledge societies is the ability to make meaning.
Our perception of our work experiences, including our responses to challenges, transitions, failures and successes, determines how rewarding we find what we do.  Pursuing one’s purpose in complex environments involves connecting the personal and the professional in profound ways, rather than adopting inherited, or out-dated stories, about the way our adult lives, or indeed our creative lives, should unfold. Managing career complexity doesn’t mean we have to resign ourselves to disadvantageous situations.  We can change the game entirely, if we are willing to think of ourselves as change agents.

I suppose part of my challenge now is setting aside those "out-dated stories" that tell me adulthood is marked by a big, expensive wedding, a mortgage and a family, and maintaining confidence that my chosen career is valid and valuable.  Of course I need the stability of knowing my basic needs can be met, which is more difficult as a freelancer than as someone working in a salaried job.  But this is true of any freelance work, not just creative work, and requires better planning than I have been doing with my head buried in this project.

This video is from this month's performance at LongPlay with Adam Spiegl, and watching back over the footage of that show has given me a surge in confidence to continue on my song-chain journey.  I also have a few pieces to share from my break, plus a little video to represent the gap in the chain.  And now that I've got this off my chest I can start again.