Make the most of it.
A few months ago I had a great conversation with a buddy about friends of ours who’d gotten a big break on national television. It was a huge opportunity, but they actually seemed more stressed: trying REALLY hard to “make the most of it.” They were so wrapped up in capitalizing on every opportunity and “striking while the iron was hot” – that they kind of ran themselves ragged.
I thought about our conversation a lot during my residency at The Castle. Every morning I would walk down to see the grand piano sitting in the living room, my guitars strewn around the stage and think – holy shit, I’m really lucky.
And then a voice in my head would scream – MAKE THE MOST OF IT.
Ok, not really. First I thought, must. make. eggs and bacon.
And then I thought make the most of it.
I tried really hard to set up as many writing dates as possible. That was my mission: don’t. waste. a second.
My first three days of the residency, I had five writing sessions. It was back to back, non-stop, mentally exhausting creative time – and completely emotionally cathartic. It felt amazing to be ON constantly and challenge myself to push past my creative walls. I went to bed every night feeling full and nervous-excited about the next day. Could I do it again? Were the songs any good? Would they make the album?
On the fourth day, my writing appointment cancelled – and I was left with the entire morning free. For once, I resisted the urge to stay busy or entertain that voice asking 1,000,001 questions about my future as an artist – and just hung out instead.
Eventually I sat down at the piano and started lulling my way through the song I’d started with Irvin Dally. We’d struggled a lot in the beginning and almost abandoned it. But as I played the first few lines I thought, this really has some potential. Then I dove in.
I put my cell phone out onto the piano, hit “record” – and ran the song over, and over. I let myself be a total perfectionist. I sussed out harmonies for the chorus and played with subtle vocal changes on the outro. It probably drove my housemates insane, but I didn’t care. It was meditation. I finally let my worries about my residency, album, and music career go. In that moment, I played simply because it felt good.
A few days and a million run-throughs later, Irvin came over and we finished that song.
What resulted was one of my favorite songs from the residency.
That experience reminded me why boredom is such an important part of childhood – it leaves space for us to get creative.
When big opportunities come along, it’s important to take advantage of them. I’m not saying a big break on national television or prestigious residency shouldn’t inspire ass-kicking. But along with the hustle, life is meant to be enjoyed. Spending every waking moment BUSY to quiet your worries about the future can spoil the fun.
I wanted to write an incredible album. But every day, I had to let my worries of the future go or I’d never make it out of bed. Every time I get too caught up in the goal, I get overwhelmed and lose sight of what’s directly in front of me*.
(*I’ve stepped onto the wrong subway train and ended up in Bumfuck Brooklyn many times for this same reason.)
It’s impossible for us to know the outcome. I had no idea in those moments if I would write a great album or if ANY of the songs would make the album. Worrying about any of that did me no good – all I had to do was focus on the moment. “The Moment” is where the magic happens. It’s when I let my love for what I’m doing lead the way, and let go of all that other crap. It takes some faith in the process.
The voices and fear may never really go away. They will try and try to pull me out of the present and into some dark distant future.
Instead, these days I sit down to do the work – and I say, listen crazy pants: I may be terrified, but fuck it. I’m doing it anyways.
What matters most is that I did something that scares me. I had the opportunity to do something that would challenge, inspire and change me – and I took it. I made the choice.
That, to me, is making the most of it.