It is hard to find the words to describe how much we adore Cheri Jamison. Cheri is a magnificent singer, life coach, image consultant, and a member of the Cadenza Artists team that we could not live without. We met her years ago at the suggestion of our very dear coach Michelle Bauman (who passed away in December 2015) and have been big fans ever since. Cheri has worked extensively, coaching musicians through the challenges of pursuing this difficult career, and we thought she’d be the perfect person to speak on the topic of being a more creative musician.
The Soul of the Music Industry
Let me start with a singular truth about people pursuing a career in the arts: You are absolutely courageous, daring, and ballsy. You have chutzpah — even stubbornness, if you want to call it that.
If you are an aspiring musician, regardless of how nervous you get, how stuck you feel, how hard on yourself you might be… you are f***ing brave.If you are an aspiring musician, regardless of how stuck you feel, you are f***ing brave. Click To Tweet
If the music industry were a person, that person would be a psychopath. Perhaps on equal footing with politics, there is no industry (I know of) that is more well-known for its ability to metaphorically eat you up, chew you to bits, and not care.
But I believe that the “psychopath” is the music industry’s ego or persona. Because those who get close enough to glimpse the soul of the music industry see something so beautiful and fulfilling that they must pursue it. The soul of the music industry is the art, beauty, expansiveness, deep emotion, and life-affirming experience of doing what one loves.
Like a child, you love it unconditionally and without reason, no matter what it says, does, doesn’t do, or even if you don’t “like” it sometimes.
But the love of music doesn’t always guarantee that you’ll experience an easy, endless flow of creativity. Even the best musicians encounter a creative block. So what can you do to be more creative as a musician? First, start at the source.
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What Causes You to Get Creatively Stuck?
To better understand what can cause a creative block, it’s important to understand that your music career is a relationship, like any other relationship, and that relationship takes place inside of you.
If you feel like you should be more creative — but it’s just not happening — it’s a sign that you need to address what is going on inside first. Doing so allows space for a shift in your experience (of what you want to change).
You can learn skills and cultivate habits to have a healthy relationship with your music career (and yourself in the process), which will aid in your ability to be more creative.
It’s within this context that I want to discuss the secret to being more creative as a musician: learning to deal with your own resistance.
Most people mention the book The War of Art as the foremost resource on the topic of overcoming resistance in the arts.
During my postgraduate work in Spiritual Psychology, I read the entire book but something about it did not sit right with me. Upon deeper introspection, I found I respectfully disagree with the basic underlying message of plowing through your resistance no matter what and having that work-ethic be what defines you as an artist/writer/person, etc.
I personally believe that how you do something is just as (or more) important as what you are doing. In other words, how you relate to yourself as you’re doing something, is the primary value gleaned from doing it.
The Types of Resistance That Can Block Creative Thinking
I don’t think there are “types” of resistance. Resistance is a word we use for the emotional response we have when we don’t want to do something. I think the response only varies in degrees, from apathy to vehement refusal, on a continuum. The situations and reasons we avoid are endless and individual to each person.
Most people did not receive training on how to handle their emotions in a healthy way — to be with and move through that uncomfortable and vulnerable feeling. So instead of dealing with the resistance, we stuff ourselves with food, numb out in front of the TV, distract ourselves with other tasks, etc, etc.
The reasons/excuses we use to justify our feeling of resistance are where the real work is… in addition to simply addressing our emotional needs.
Be More Creative by Addressing Your Emotional Needs
If you learn how to address your emotional needs, you will learn to “fight” the resistance less, which will open you up to new ways of looking at your world or a specific situation. This new way of seeing things will ultimately fuel (or reignite) your ability to be more creative.
Here are five tips for addressing your emotional needs:
1) Recognize when you are disengaging and avoiding. Catch yourself! Once you bring it out from an unconscious pattern to recognizing, then you can start learning your triggers and go-to “false fixes.”
- Oh, I just spent the last 30 minutes looking at Facebook when I really wanted to set aside some practice time today.
- I inhaled a candy bar because I feel so stressed out right now.
- I deserve to skip today because of ___________.
If you know what you do when you feel resistance, then you can learn to catch yourself earlier and earlier and do the following suggestions instead.
2) Acknowledge when you experience resistance, but don’t do anything with it, just BE with it. Observe yourself. Try not to judge the feeling, but notice where you feel it in your body. Sometimes I feel it as a tingly agitation in my upper chest, my throat and shoulders get tight, and I have the urge to get up and eat something sugary.
Other times, I feel hopeless and my inner critic kicks in, with thoughts like, “No matter how hard I try, I’ll never be successful, so why even bother?”
Often when you can just be with that feeling, focusing your whole attention on it, it will move through and subside.
It will be uncomfortable, and that’s okay. You will feel vulnerable, and it’s worth it. There might be part of you that thinks if you focus on the pain, you’ll die or never be able to get out of it. (That means you’re really close to a breakthrough!) If you stay with it, on the other side is freedom, boundless creativity, peace, and a feeling of spaciousness/lightness inside of you where the resistance used to be.
3) Engage in active introspection and personal growth work. If it’s challenging to be with these thoughts and feelings quietly (like in a meditation), then you can use tools that help work through your feelings more actively, such as:
- Journaling in a free-form way, writing down whatever comes to mind, purging it onto paper. Don’t read it over. Instead, burn or shred the paper right away.
- Give it a voice. Set up two chairs — an empty one and one you sit in. First, speak to your resistance as if it were a person. Next, move to the other chair and speak as your resistance. Continue doing this and be open to learning.
- Talk it through with a friend, life coach, minister, or therapist who knows how to listen and let you work it through your own feelings.
- Try some exercises from Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly.
4) Replace negative numbing with positive self-care. As you learn to recognize and catch yourself when you’re feeling resistance, you can replace negative numbing habits with positive self-care. Especially if you introspect about what you really need when you feel that way, you can start doing those things that bring you back to center faster.
- Going for a walk or run outside
- Repeating affirmations
- Taking a few minutes to snuggle with your pet
- Listening to an upbeat song and dancing for 3 to 5 minutes
5) Take action. There is something of value to “just doing it” and establishing a discipline or habit, regardless of how you feel in the moment.
However, I think our society often over emphasizes the “plow through” mentality without considering that your emotions may be an indicator that something needs to be addressed internally first.
If you handle your emotions first (even for just a minute), it’s likely that you’ll feel more inwardly willing to take the action you intended to do in the first place.
How Do You Know If You’re Encountering “Resistance” or If You Really Need A Break?
If you are really struggling with resistance and are asking questions like, “Is a career in music really for me?” your resistance may be pointing to a deeper issue.
Pursuing a career in music can stir up a lot of stuff. It can trigger emotional issues from childhood (approval seeking, people-pleasing, abandonment, worthiness issues, rejection). If one of those issues is driving your desire to be a professional musician, then you’re bound to have a difficult time.
If you got into music for the wrong reasons, you’ll usually leave music for the right ones.
This is not a bad thing, nor does it mean you’ll necessarily give up music. It is an opportunity for growth, and whether it seems like it at the time or not, that is a blessing.
If you courageously face any vulnerable feeling that comes up using the above tools, let go of your judgments around it, and learn to be kind to yourself in most circumstances (as much as possible), then you’ll be on your way to having the emotional intelligence and internal strength to be more creative and have a healthy relationship with your music career and yourself in the process.
Remember, when you move through that feeling of resistance, the prize is freedom and boundless creativity.
Cheri Jamison is a professional singer, expert life coach for musicians, and team member with Cadenza Artists. A multi-talented entrepreneur at heart, Cheri loves sharing her knowledge of business, spiritual psychology, conscious artist development, and creativity through transformational coaching, writing, and speaking. Connect with Cheri at www.CheriJamison.com.