Watch an American soldier. What can you see? A strong man in his 30s with short hair and very serious face expression. His shape and his eyes seem to tell you that this is not a person you should try to challenge. Unless you are his boss, to be clear.
There’s no doubt this man has experienced many hours of strict training and physical exercises. But there is also one thing that people tend to omit when they consider a general description of the American army training. Each of those machos and killing machines had to accept one idea during all the years spent in his squadron – that everyone is vulnerable. This is one of the biggest secrets shared among successful soldiers – many of them have always in their mind that, in most of cases, they won’t be perfect and turn out to be weak.
And now you, soldier – what does it have in common with music, performance or composition? To be honest – both terms are closely related.
As a songwriter, I usually need to face a peculiar feeling of “artistic block”. Perhaps, you also have experienced that situation when you weren’t able to progress with your work regardless your profession – there is no difference whether you are a painter, a composer, a songwriter, a sculptor or a business man struggling to create his own speech that would convince his audience to buy a project.
This artistic block usually doesn’t need to appear when I stare at a blank page because I rarely start with empty mind. You will rather find me scrolling my notepad on my phone or flipping through a magazine looking for a nice headline ready to be stolen and used as an inspiration.
But my block seems to be of a different kind. When I’m ready to write, full of fresh ideas and ideas about ideas, with my pen dancing on the piece of paper that used to be blank a few minutes ago, I suddenly stop and get frozen. I remember my self confidence when I was approaching my desk and that convincing thought running through my mind: “yes, you have experience”, “you have done this quite a few times by now – you know what to do”, “this time your piece will be even better. At least it should be”. Do you recognize it? I face those thoughts every single evening. They look as if they are supportive but they are the real reason for my creative frustration.
I expect myself to be that professional always ready to write a hit or arrange the best string quartet for a popular song. And then, when I progress with my current work, I realise this will never fulfil my expectations. For several reasons – I tend to be very critical when I rate my works. I am a perfectionist. I always try to acquire the quality of the best.
But, among all those things I know the secret of the best soldiers. I am a soldier. Fighting with my procrastination, with my laziness, with my lack of understanding, with my lack of experience. If I am a soldier, I know I can be vulnerable. In this room, in my battle, I don’t need to be perfect. I know I have my bad sides; I know I will fail many times in the future. But at the moment, writing this piece, I will give the best of myself. I will be strong trying to do things that are important for me. If I fail – nobody knows. It’s just me in the battle. At least I will try to do my job which brings me satisfaction.
Being vulnerable was an idea suggested by Steven Pressfield in his book “The War of Art”. I strongly suggest anyone struggling to become a creator to read it.