How Do I Know if I'm Any Good?
As artists, we all seek validation. We want people to LOVE our art. To love our poem, to love our song, to love our play, to love our performance. From the time I was a kid I wanted to feel the validation from people. Not surprisingly, one of my chief love languages is “Words of Affirmation”. Simply put, it feels good to be told you’re doing well. But in the musical world what does that look like? Here are some suggestions and tidbits that might help you make that journey into the uncertain a little more clear.
How Long Have You Been Doing This? Standard industry thoughts are if you have been doing something for 10,000 hours then you’re deemed a professional. Sometimes people strike gold on their first try with a one hit wonder, but that doesn’t mean they won’t, at some point, have to put in the effort if their going to stay at a professional level. But for most of us, we are in the ship of practice for about 10 years.
My kids have probably heard me say a thousand times, “There is no substitute for Practice.“ Because there isn’t. You can’t become great at something, even with raw talent, unless you take the time to craft it. And crafting it just takes time.
Is Your Content Any Good? Listen, you can have a thousand friends who all tell you you’re the best and you’re great and don’t change a thing. But it’s often a stranger that will tell you the truth. They will tell you by walking away from you. They will tell you by dropping money in your tip jar. They will tell you by signing up to your emailing list or buying your CDs.
“If you have talent, you don’t have to ask other people. They will tell you.” – my Dad They will also tell you if you don’t. Don’t rely on others to form your opinion about yourself. Someone once said to me something else I hold very dear.
“You’re never as good as they say you are and you’re never as bad as they say you are.” When people begin to criticize you, please take a moment and put it in perspective. You’ve heard it said, Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” But I find that insulting to all my teacher friends who are amazing and have chosen the more humble path of sharing their knowledge with others. So let me amend that.
“Those who can, do. Those who can’t, critique.” ~ el robbo
And lately it seems like everyone has become a critic. How many times have we used, or repeated or droned on about someone being “pitchy” after Mr. Randy Jackson dropped the word on American Idle.
EVERYONE has become a critic. But not everyone truly understands the difference between “good” and “bad”. Also, art is subjective. So one man’s trash is literally another man’s treasure. There are times I love listening to a lo-fi indie band. And there are times I listen to the best classical composers ever recorded. Variety and time has taught me to seek the truth of the song, through the recording, beyond the recording. But the point is I’ve listened to enough of both of those things to have formed an intelligent opinion about those subjects. And I think the best critics are the ones that offer constructive criticisms. Those are meant to help and not to harm. That is not the majority of people opening their mouth as of late. The good news is if they’re critiquing you, then you must, at the very least, be doing something! And that is valuable! “Everyone hears an inner voice.” ~ Paul Simon Without going overtly spiritual on this, I would leave you with these 7 tidbits of info I’ve learned. Be mindful to a few close and trusted friends who have given you negative feedback in the past and it helped. Be aware no matter how good you are, someone else is better. No matter how good you get YOU could always get better. Be open to constructive criticisms. Ignore deconstructive criticisms. Be able to discern which is which. Don’t be afraid to be you. The world is full of posers and wannabe’s. How about you just study your craft until it becomes your own.
Go on then, What are you waiting for?