Saturday, March 13, 2010

30 day challenge

Wow, that last post was kind of a whine-fest, eh? Waa waa, you have free time, poor baby. No wonder there were so few comments, you were probably all pulling out your tiny violins and playing them for poor old me. But you know what I decided? When I have time between gigs, what I need to do is challenge myself in some way to keep my brain active. The reason I personally am in a better mood when I'm working is that I thrive on challenges, and rehearsing and performing opera is always that. Writing is also a challenge, but it's not such a big challenge when I'm feeling inspired - it just flows. But recently my dad asked me if I ever thought about blogging every day, and I replied, "Noooooooo, Dad! I can only write when I am in-spaaaaaaahed." But what if I forced myself to get inspaaaaahed every morning? In the book The Artists Way, which is about tapping into your own creativity to the fullest, the author suggests that you write something called "morning pages" every morning to get your creativity flowing first thing. I tried that and I think I was able to do it for about a month and then I stopped feeling it. But that was before I had started blogging, and my writing has changed a lot since then. So my challenge to myself this month is to blog every single day (gasp) for 30 days and see what it does for me. Which means, people, that sometimes I end up blogging about some really boring crap. Or maybe I will become funny again, because lately I feel like I've been sort of not so hilarious in the ol' blog entries. But I'm gonna try the experiment to see if it kicks me in the butt a little bit.

The subject kicking around in my head today is justice and fairness. "Whoever told you that life was fair?" my mom is fond of saying to me (she's good at keeping me grounded). And yet I still get absolutely incensed when I see an injustice occurring, especially when it happens to someone I care about. This week I witnessed what I think anybody would agree was a great injustice happening to a friend of mine - someone incredibly talented, hard working, and kind - who had an opportunity that should have belonged to them yanked out from under them. My first reaction was to fly into a rage ( I was in the process of doing my laundry when I found out and those dryer doors got some abuse) and then I started to feel sort of despondent, asking myself why we even BOTHER when talent isn't rewarded?

I called my parents (as I often do in times of stress and confusion) and they made a good analogy. This business (or any artistic endeavor in which you are trying to make a living and not just doing it for fun) is basically a lottery. If you are talented enough, you are allowed to buy a ticket, but once you buy a ticket, it's basically up to fate whether you win the lottery or not. You might win $5 or you might win ten million, but it's all a matter of chance. Will you meet the right person, who will introduce you to another right person, who will decide you deserve being pushed to the top? Will you get sick the night of your big debut at a huge house and blow it? Will you sing your audition before lunch when the intendant is hungry and in a bad mood or after lunch when he's full and feeling better? If you want to be in this business, you have to be willing to buy that lottery ticket and leave your fate up to something way beyond your control. BUT you have to keep working at your craft to even be allowed to buy a new ticket every day. And of course, many people believe that our attitude and energy have a huge affect on what our fate turns out to be, so those things are important too.

I guess the lesson is always the same - as trite and cliched as it sounds - that you have to decide when you succeed and fail, and not leave it up to the outside world to determine that. Does success for an opera singer mean singing at La Scala or does it mean challenging yourself to improve in some small way every day? Does success mean making a recording or being able to sing a high C for yourself in your living room, as perfectly as you can? Does success mean having an article about you written in a magazine or teaching third graders who hated opera something that makes them interested in it? I'm saying all this for myself, by the way, not in order to sound all grandiose and patronizing. In the same way that success in an artistic field can be all about perception (did a 5 year old splatter paint on that canvas or did Jackson Pollock create it? knowing the answer will almost certainly affect how you feel about it the painting), success for oneself is about your own self perception. It's something to remind ourselves of every day. I certainly need to.

Whew! So much heavy stuff!! I REALLY need to find the funny again. Well, I have 30 consecutive blogging days to try.....


mamascarlatti said...

I check into your blog everyday so it will be great have something to read.
I had never realised what a precarious existence opera singers lead; at least one thing that is under your control is to communicate with the public on your own terms via this blog.

Anonymous said...

Hooray! Daily posts! Love your blog. You are a great writer and your insights are always interesting. Thanks for sharing them!

Anonymous said...

This post reminding m Nena O'Neil said that if we do not rise to the challenge of our unique capacity to shape our lives, to seek the kinds of growth that we find individually fulfilling, then we can have no security: we will live in a world of sham, in which our selves are determined by the will of others, in which we will be constantly buffeted and increasingly isolated by the changes round us. 'The YES Movie'' produced by Louis Lautman

Anonymous said...

Whatever your own definition of success may be, I would guess a large number of your readers already consider you a huge success. (Yes, even the ones unrelated to you and that have never met you - like myself.)

Not that you need any help with 30 days of blogging, you're inspired and creative enough on your own, but it might be interesting to dig around the depths of the pysche of an opera singer. Spend the first part entering Hades - looking at the fear, insecurity, rejection, loneliness, unfairness, anger, boredom, and despair the profession can invoke. Let the mind wander and fall into places it normally chooses not to. A chance to explore the depths.

And then once the darkness has been recognized, the journey up into purgatorio and then the glory of paradiso, which is where all of us outsiders wish opera singers could, and deserve to, spend all of their time.

It could make a very interesting journey for you - therapeutic even - and would make compelling reading. Fiction, allegory, abstraction, absurdism, fantasy, music, anecdotes - who's to say blog posts must always be chronicled with reality? There are so many different way to describe truths. Opera being one that most of us adore - there is so much truth and beauty on those stages. The caveat in all this being that sometimes people, after entering the depths of the mind, have trouble coming back. This arc might be a way to structure the 30 days into something that is, well, operatic.

Whatever you decide to write about, I look forward to more of the intelligence, insight, creativity, and humor you've graced us with. Your blog is always a pleasure to read.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I have absolutely no idea how I trolled across your blog but I'm so glad I did. You are one of those rare beasts that I'm always so thrilled to encounter - a classical artist who isn't stuck so far up their own serious backside that they've forgotten what it is to have a sense of humour. Really looking forward to reading through the archives.

Anonymous said...

Success is making a living doing what you love to do (not everyone can accomplish this), having affirming relationships with those you meet and those you already hold dear, and keeping your sanity and sense of humor in a difficult - and yes, often quite unfair - field. Seems like you have all that going already, Jennifer. Keep it up! Love the writing challenge idea, too. You seem to always be able to find kernels of truth in your daily life, whether they be about opera or just being human. Thanks for sharing them. Btw, your post about struggling with time off rings very true, it didn't sound like whining. I think opera singers have a mental intensity that can run amok when not sufficiently challenged :-).

pat rivera said...

Anonymous above is very eloquent, maybe she/he should write a blog, or maybe already does. This blog is witty, interesting and stimulates the creativity of us all.