With all of the heaviness that came from talking about problems in the music education system and possible solutions, I thought it was about time to work with a lighter topic. Summer is about relaxing after all, is it not?
From clarifying your personal artistic dream to learning a little more about how to create multiple income streams by thinking like an entrepreneur, all of the following books are personal favorites of mine. All three books have been immensely helpful in my own journey, and I hope that you find them just as enlightening.
1.) The Artist's Way - Julia Cameron
As it says on the inside of the front cover, "The Artist's Way is the seminal book on the subject of creativity... it has inspired millions to overcome the limiting beliefs and fears that can inhibit the creative process." At the risk of sounding like a paid spokesperson, I believe that the book delivers beyond that promise. Julia walks the reader through a 12 week program looking at their personal desires, fears, creative blocks, and possible steps through or around each of these issues. She was able to speak to each of my criticisms of the program as I was having them, and the program itself has been nothing but helpful in producing consistent artistic work without the crippling fear that has come from past adventures into the space.
We're a special type of people, us musicians. We work for hours a day in a tiny room all by ourselves, constantly criticizing, critiquing, and berating our own playing. We compare ourselves to other people. We lose auditions left and right and somehow we're still expected to be functioning, reasonable human beings. Finding compassion for our mistakes, a love for the process of improvement, and a gratitude for the life we live doing what we love are all skills to be cultivated over time. The Artist's Way touches on all of these bases.
As someone who has personally struggled with impostor syndrome for much of my musical career, this book was a breakthrough read for me. If you're stuck in a bit of a rut or have had trouble clarifying what you want out of your artistry, I'd strongly suggest you take this one for a spin. Quick disclaimer; when I say this is a 12 week program, I mean it. You won't get much out of the book by solely reading it, but rather committing to the program and seeing it through. It's well worth the time commitment.
2.) The Four Hour Workweek - Tim Ferriss
For the longest time, the 'standard' path for many musicians has been 1.) Go to school. 2.) Win a job playing or teaching. 3.) Sit there for 30 years and retire a happy person with an awesome pension. Guess what? That ideal is becoming less and less viable for music graduates over time, and it certainly wasn't a way towards happiness for many even in the first place. How many bitter and jaded musicians do you know? Yeah. That's not a small number. I would argue that the number is so high because these people never were able to pursue what they were passionate about at different points in their life for fear of losing the 'dream job'. Our interests and goals change as we age and mature. Why does our work not reflect this?
It was Tim's book that finally allowed me to formulate a viable answer to the above question. The beauty in this book is not that you will work four hours a week (you won't), but you'll arrange your life in such a way as to maximize the time you spend working on things you want to work on. The problems we have are infinitely more bearable if they're problems we choose, and Tim gives strategies to make this a reality. Passive income streams, goal-setting, and time efficiency methods are the core of the philosophy presented here. It helps that Tim is an engaging, egocentric, and incredibly interesting person, and all of that is certainly reflected in his writing. An entrepreneurial mindset and a new perspective of how I could build a life I want to live are my takeaways from The Four Hour Workweek.
3.) The Inner Game of Tennis - Timothy Gallwey
There have been too many instances in my career where I've practiced my parts, know I can play the snot out of them, come to the gig, and totally flubb. 'Why?' was my question for the longest time. Thankfully, I had a friend in Los Angeles who lent me this book. (Sorry Tyler, I still have it.) It changed my approach to performance entirely by showing me that the difference between my potential and actual performance was simply how much my mind interfered. My body knows how to play trombone. Your body knows how to play your instrument. You especially know how to play a piece you've slaved over for hours. It is entirely understandable that we'd grow frustrated or angry with ourselves when we chip a note or play something out of tune, but that judgement does not have a place in performing at a peak level. That judgement is our ego getting in the way. It is from a dulling of the the same ego and trusting ourselves that we can let our potential shine in a 'gameday' situation. Who knew that a book about tennis could help us lowly musicians?