Category Archives: the arts

called to create

Tonight in my wind ensemble rehearsal, I actually enjoyed playing my clarinet for the first time in a while. I’ve played for about 11 years, but I’ve had a complicated relationship with my clarinet for the past couple. Somewhere down the line, I started to care too much about whether or not I sounded great, and I felt like there wasn’t much of a point to playing at all if I didn’t sound great. There are several problems with that mindset, and one of them is that I would lose the desire to play whenever I felt insecure about my skills. Since I’m too hard on myself, this has happened a lot.

But tonight I tried to take a different approach to playing. I thought about how blessed I am to be able to have studied music in college, to play clarinet, and even just to own my beautiful instrument.

I’m a sinner. I don’t deserve grace or mercy. I don’t deserve the clothes on my back, or the heat of the sun that shines down on me, or another day. And I don’t deserve Christ’s life given for me on the cross. But God has given me all of those things, and more than that too. It is by the grace and love of God that I get to create music; it’s another gift that he has lavished on me. And it’s a good gift.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, with whom there is no change or shifting shadow.” -James 1:17

Put that way, I can stop worrying about whether or not I sound great, and I can play out of a heart of thankfulness.

I think that people need to create out of thankfulness. Not just music, but art or writing or cooking; any number of things.

Have you ever gone through an extended period of time where you didn’t create anything? Or perhaps you only created anything for the sake of achieving productivity. That’s what I’ve been doing lately, more or less, and it has made me feel sad and empty. But when I create something just for the fun of it, just because I can, I feel good. I feel a sense of purpose and joy at the marvel of building something with my own hands.

If we’re made in the image of God, I think we need to create. I suppose it’s a calling. None of us would exist without his desire to create, and I think that he has passed that desire onto us. I think it’s good for our souls and minds and bodies. But we can’t create just to try and be great. If that’s your purpose, you’ll just find yourself at a dead end sooner or later.

I think that God loves to listen to me play clarinet, but not because my playing knocks his socks off or anything like that. It doesn’t. Rather, he loves to listen to me play because he loves me and because he’s the one who gives me the ability to play. When I play, I’m making good use of one of the gifts he has given me, and I think that it warms his heart. My playing is like a silly crayon drawing that God has hung up on his fridge. He doesn’t love it because it’s amazing; he loves it because he made me. And he feels the same way whenever you create too.

Updates

Several months ago, I changed the focus of this blog from my personal life to the arts and mental health.

This was exciting for me. However, in the past several months, I’ve changed my career goals quite a bit. These changes have affected how I felt about my blog, too.

I used to be a clarinet performance major. I wanted to pursue a graduate degree in clarinet and build a career out of performing and teaching. Since then, I realized that I don’t actually want to leave my home state to pursue my studies. I also discovered that I love my minor in professional writing even more than I thought I would. Later, I developed tendonitis in my hand and wrist from my clarinet practicing.

Following these realizations and the pain in my hand, I changed my major to a bachelor of arts in music, allowing me to have more room for writing classes and to give my hand a break. Post-graduation, I hope to have a job in technical writing, editing, or grant writing and I’m super excited.

As my career focus has shifted away from music (and my physical ability to practice has decreased), my personal relationship with music has changed. This change exposed an unhealthy mindset that I had developed as a musician. I’m still wrestling with that now, but I’m learning how to accept music as an enjoyable hobby rather than as a career, and it’s good for me.

Since I’m still wrestling with what it means for me to be a musician and artist, I’m opening this blog up for other personal content again; especially faith. But the blog will still be different from its early days.

I’ve had a lot of thoughts in the past year about the benefits and costs of being personal online, and more often than not, I feel that the costs outweigh the benefits. So many people share intimate details about their lives online for all to see, but I think it’s worth it to trust people before becoming super personal; a difficult, if not impossible, thing to develop on the internet.

However, I realized that I can share my thoughts on a variety of topics and discuss what I’ve been learning and/or thinking about without giving too much personal detail. That’s what I’m gonna do.

So here I go again with changing the course of this blog. Ope.

 

when things get in the way

I have two laptops. One of them is heavy, doesn’t fit into my backpack, and has a lot of loading issues. I named that one Roger. the other one has keyboard problems; letters t and y don’t work unless I repeatedly press them, and it’s nearly impossible to capitalize them. Hence, the lower case t that I started the previous sentence with. I haven’t given that laptop a name, but it’s blue, so I refer to it as the blue one.

I don’t write on the blue one most of the time, but sometimes Roger’s problems test my patience too much, or I don’t want to carry it with me around campus. When I do write on the blue one and have to press t and y between 7 and 15 times every time I need to use one of them, I have to pat myself on the back because I worked extra hard to get my words on the page.

Sometimes, as a creator, there are things that get in the way of making art, like malfunctioning keyboards, or for me, mental health. It’s awfully hard to write in a really negative head space. Sometimes it’s hard to write in a positive head space, but when my mind is being extra critical of the work I’m creating? It’s just downright painful. There are days when I try and just give up, and then there are the days where I push through. In either case, I remind myself that I tried, and sometimes that is more than enough.

Being a musician is like that for me too. Practicing is difficult even when I’m in the best mindset. to have an effective practice session where I’m really getting work done means many things. Focusing on tone, tonguing, and practicing runs of notes in ways that actually help me to retain them? That’s a lot to pay attention to in short spans of time. But that’s just what practicing is like. And on days where my head space is extra critical or just plain sad? the practice room becomes a very tricky place.

But I try to go there anyway. And on those days I sometimes still try to write. And I still write on a laptop with a bad keyboard.

Sometimes things get in the way of creating, but when you’re fighting those things, remember that if your work isn’t what it might be on better days, it’s probably because you had to work so much harder just to begin. Sometimes it doesn’t matter whether the art you create on bad days is your best work. You’re a trooper just for trying.

finding the joy of music again: a new journey

As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, I believe that the arts can be very helpful to those who are dealing with mental health conditions. With the arts, I can express my emotions, set goals, practice fulfilling activities, and sometimes find that sense of being lost in a creative flow.

Yet, as a music student, I find that my motivation to work as a musician is often hindered by my mental state. Yet, when I’m struggling to find passion for music, I still have a drive to make visual art, to learn more about fashion, or to write. In fact, I think I have even more of a drive to practice the other arts I enjoy when I’m feeling down, though my motivation as a musician struggles.

The difference is that, because I am in music school, music doesn’t feel like as much of an art to me anymore. It feels like a thing of necessity. It is not an expression of emotions anymore; it is a fulfillment of requirements. For me, music school often turns music into a lifeless chore for me. It makes me tired and it isn’t usually fun.

I want to try and rediscover the fun of music. I wish it was simple, but I feel like I’ll have to dig through years of stress and pressure and perfectionism to find the fun of it underneath it all.

Meanwhile, I can’t stop treating music as an academic thing for me. I have pieces I need to accomplish right now, and techniques that demand to be mastered. I can’t drop the responsibility and treat music as a thing that is solely for fun. So how will I rediscover music as an enjoyable and life-giving activity, while simultaneously keeping up with the demands of my current life as a musician? I am unsure.

I think I need to find some music related activities to engage in just for the heck of it. I need to find some new albums that inspire me, or learn a piece that I like but that I won’t program for a recital. Something that I won’t pressure myself to make perfect. Maybe I need to analyze a favorite piece of mine without the pressure of it being an assignment for class. Or maybe I need to find a way to incorporate the other arts that I’m still excited about into my music making.

I don’t really know.. but what I do know is that I’m in some sort of rut, and I haven’t been able to get out of it for a while. I need to do something, because I’m definitely not willing to give up.

I think this blog could maybe help me. By writing about my journey to rediscover the joy of music, I’ll have a place to document my findings. I’ll have a project to continue with, and projects like this make me excited.

I often look around at the musicians surrounding me and wonder why I’m the only one who feels the way I do. And then I remember that I’m probably not the only one… so in case anyone else needs it, here I am as some proof that not all musicians or artists feel motivated all the time… and that’s okay. 🙂

 

better ways to procrastinate?

Earlier this week, I set some goals for this month, including:

  • practicing my clarinet 5 out of 7 days every week
  • finishing one painting
  • posting on my blog at least twice a week about my progress

I had a few purposes for setting these goals, but my biggest reason for setting these goals was to help my mental health and keep myself busy.

So far, things are going well! Yesterday I painted and practiced, and got a few other things done too. But today… I feel like procrastinating.

I know that I’ll get around to practicing and painting before the day is over, but so far I have done only a few things, including catching Pokemon on Pokemon Go, using a face mask, and crocheting a coaster.

coasters

I’ve crocheted multiple coasters lately (usually while putting off another activity), and it has been pretty fun. One of the main ways that I procrastinate is by knitting or crocheting. You could call it “procrastiknitting”, I suppose.

When it comes to activities that can help better mental health, I find that procrastination is one of my worst enemies. For some reason, I often try to put off activities that will help me, even if they are activities I like. But there are some ways to put things off that are better than others.

I oftentimes procrastinate by simply watching videos on my phone or by going on social media. However, this has never left me feeling any better. Recently, I deactivated my social media in order to take a break, but I will still watch videos pretty often. Sometimes this is okay; there’s nothing wrong with watching a video or two while eating my dinner, but if I waste an entire afternoon on the couch with YouTube, I’ll probably find myself feeling pretty crummy later.

Procrastinating might never be a great thing, but there are ways to procrastinate more positively, and this can actually be helpful.

If you feel like procrastinating, try doing something active rather than passive. Put down the phone and find some way to create something, do something healthy, or treat yourself. These activities can help give you some active momentum. When you’re done, perhaps you’ll be able to do the thing you were putting off with less resistance from yourself.

Today I chose to procrastinate by making crafts and taking a walk outside while I caught Pokemon, and I definitely feel better and more motivated. Not a bad decision, at all. 🙂

What ways do you usually procrastinate? Are there better activities that you could choose?

What are the things in work or your personal life that you put off doing the most?

 

how can I create when I don’t feel like it?

People have claimed that the arts can help those who suffer with depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles. I believe this is true. Yet as an artist, I find that there is sometimes nothing more difficult than actually engaging with the arts while I’m not feeling well.

I know that playing my clarinet, painting something new, or writing will help me, yet these are the things I lose desire for when I’m going through a rough patch. (This explains why I haven’t posted on my blog for a few weeks… Whoops.)

Many people experience this. Depression makes it difficult to put effort into anything beyond simple tasks, yet these tasks are the ones that can help you to start feeling like yourself again. It’s a cycle, and it can sometimes feel impossible to get out of.

The arts demand effort and confidence, and oftentimes daily practice. This is especially true for those who try to make a career out of them. But how can I make a daily practice out of something when I struggle to find the motivation to do it for even one day?

This is one of the things that I most want to explore this year through commitment to daily practice and writing about it on this blog.

I think a great way for me to get started on this is by setting goals. When setting goals, I’ve learned that it’s always important to set attainable goals, and to set small steps along the way. It’s important to be specific.

To get started, here are some attainable goals I want to set for myself this month:

  •  Practicing my clarinet 5 out of 7 days a week
  • 1 painting
  • Posting on this blog at least 2 times a week with thoughts on how things are going

To show how I will break one of these goals down and set smaller, specific steps, I’ll use the example of finishing one painting this month.

1. First, I’ll dedicate an hour to deciding what to paint and drawing a simple sketch of it. To make this even easier, I’ll pick a time to do that within the next two days and commit myself to that as a part of my schedule.

For this painting, I’m going to do this tonight after I get home from work.

2.  Next, I’ll think about my needs for this painting. I’ll need a canvas, paint, brushes, and water. I already have all these things, so my next step is deciding where I will set up my supplies. I don’t have a table for this in my apartment, so I need to get creative

I’ll use a garbage bag as a tarp by cutting open its seams and laying it on my floor. Then I can set up all of my supplies on top of it, and feel good about having protected my floor.

3. I pick a time to begin my painting. If if got leftover time tonight after drawing my sketch, I can start then. I’ll have additional work time tomorrow at 10am.

From there, I’ll decide additional steps as I go. I anticipate this painting to take me a minimum of 12 hours.

I might complete more than one painting this month, but by setting the goal of only doing one, I’ll feel accomplished if I manage that much, and I’ll feel especially great if I can manage more.

Depression and anxiety are hard, but they don’t need to hold me back from doing the things that I love. I can do the things that I love better when I break them down into small tasks.

What favorite activities of yours are difficult for you to do when you’re feeling down?

Do you have any goals for yourself this month? How can you break them down for yourself?