The title for today’s post comes from a podcast I was listening to this morning on my walk. While discussing mindfulness, the host used these three words in succession and it really stuck a chord with me.
If I’m going to be honest and vulnerable – and why not…it’s 2020 and there is not point in not being either anymore – I’ve been struggling the past week or two. It’s no surprise that performing work has really dried up. There are a couple of things here and there, but my entire summer and fall have turned out much differently than what was planned; again, like all of us.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of work as an artist and musician. In a practical sense, the work is the performance – after all that’s where we make money. But with that gone, it’s been hard for me to find my North Star about what I do.
I’m very lucky to have some close friends who are artists in more solitary disciplines that I’ve been talking with lately and they’ve been incredibly helpful. They’ve helped me to reframe the idea of work quite substantially and it has been a big help to my mental health.
Work is the daily practice. Work is getting up and going to your studio, and picking up what you were working on yesterday and continuing. Work is “Groundhog Day”.
I suspect that many, if not most, creative people know this. It is frighteningly easy to forget, though. I had forgotten it completely and when the landscape of reality cracked in March, it left me reeling. I’m finding my footing again recently through he daily work of being a musician – that is – the continued development of craft along with a healthy detachment from the need for my artistic practice to be any more than that right now (full disclosure – this is a serious work in progress and I have as many bad days as good!).
A few more words about the title…the phrase came up in the context of a discussion with a senate staffer about maintaining mindfulness over the course of a LONG (15+ years) legislative campaign (I believe it was about marriage equality). The host asked how the staffer maintained passion, patience, and perseverance over such a long timeline with often no visible forward motion. The staffer’s response was something along the lines of “put a win on the board everyday”. Now this on its own seems almost trite, but in the exposition of the idea it really started to resonate. A ‘win” can be ANYTHING that is accomplished in service of the goal. Did the staff have a conversation with a constituent? Win. Was there a town hall on the topic? Win. Was there formal or informal debate between differing points of view? Win. Nowhere in the exposition was there the mention of an outcome. It was ALL about doing the daily work in service of the goal.
It’s not easy to perform right now. It’s not easy to gather with people to make or experience music together right now. But, something that I CAN do everyday is to get up, go to my studio, and work on the craft. If I do that, it’s a win.