This was in my inbox yesterday:
And start making music :)
It’s Labor Day Weekend. That one time a year when US citizens are encouraged to stop working and enjoy other things in life… like making music, eating hot dogs and drinking beer. To help celebrate, we’re slashing prices by 35% all weekend. Just enter the code below during checkout:
The only problem with this ad is that, as a sound designer for theater, making music is a big part of my job. And, you know what I’ve recently realized? This sucks. Because music was one of my first loves.
Ostensibly, this makes no sense – according to the modern American Dream, finding a way to do what you love for a living = winning.
Except… well, let me break it down this way: a few years ago, when I was in one of my occasional tailspins, a good friend pointed out that every time she asked me how I was doing, I told her about my family or my work. She very gently suggested that, it might be a good idea to take some time for myself every day, even if it was only an hour.
“Super idea,” I thought. “This is going to be great.”
Of course, I’m so incapable of having a good time for a good time’s sake that it took me about six weeks to figure out something I wanted to do for myself (which may just be a sign that I left therapy too soon). But then I got it – I would write that heavy-metal adaptation of an epic novel that I’d been talking about for years. I was stoked.
I read, adapted, wrote lyrics and songs – one hour a day? No way – I was doing two hours a day before a month had passed. For years – I’m talking two, three years – I was sure I had figured it out. I was in charge, writing what I wanted to write, and having a great time doing it.
But here’s the thing. I somehow convinced myself that the ten hours I spend nearly every day writing music and thinking about plays for a living was somehow different from my two “me” hours, which I had been spending… writing music and thinking about a play.
When you take what you love and make it your work, then no matter how much you love it, it’s still work.
I played bass and wrote songs for a metal band in Junior High School because it was fun, not because I had to get up in the morning and make that music in order to pay my mortgage. Don’t get me wrong – I freaking love creating soundscapes, building acoustic models, riffing in tech rehearsals, or breaking down a play with a collaborator. It’s just that all of that is my job. I can’t make music without thinking of its future. I didn’t adapt that novel without an endgame in mind – I’d be a liar if I said that I don’t want someone to produce it. Instead of me doing something that was just for me, I was doing my job in my spare time.
Recently, I’ve been getting irresponsible. Forgetting meetings, spending money I don’t have, staying out ‘til 3 when I know my kid’ll be up at 7, acting as though it’s possible to have rational discussions about politics, race and humanity on Facebook, playing Clash Of Clans on three different i-things at once… I’ve been losing my temper, running out of steam, and getting into fights with everyone I love.
Because I refuse to indulge myself for real. Because my childhood hobby became my grownup job, and I never replaced it with a grownup hobby. I think that everyone who drives their own work-engine needs this, and if someone did a study, I’d be willing to bet that they’d discover 70% of social media content and time-waster games are just people spinning their wheels as an unconscious attempt to get away from their jobs.
Making music, writing a play or even going to a play cannot be something I do for myself, because that’s already been claimed by my work – it’s a thing I do for other people. And if the way I define myself (parent, composer, lover, designer) is entirely focused on something or someone other than me, then who am I?
I’m going to try and learn how to surf anytime I can get to the shore. I’m going to take boxing classes on my dinner breaks. I’m going to go to whisky-tastings, spend my nights out anywhere but the theater, and have rambling conversations with strangers. I’m going to make friends with people who only go to plays on special occasions. And I’m going to write this blog, because I love writing. It took me three years, but I finally understand the idea of that hour a day – it’s not for doing work that I’ve chosen, but for actually doing a full-on activity that can’t be mistaken for parenting, working, or installing a kitchen sink in the studio.