I was so fortunate to be asked to be a contributing writer for the Lifestyle section of Origin Magazine (Austin, Dallas, Houston, LA, NYC)
Here’s the article from the Summer edition. I haven’t been that great at blogging about these things, but my life and career have had some pretty major shifts in the last year. . . Here’s a little of the wisdom I have gathered over the last year. I hope you enjoy.
I’ve never met Katherine. She lives 1000 miles away from me, and most likely our paths will never cross. But two days ago, as she was being prepped for major surgery, she requested that my music be played in the operating room. Songs I had created, reaching out across time and space, brought her peace and comfort. When I heard about Katherine it was a simple reminder of a fact that has been on my mind a lot these past few months – the music is more than me. I am in service to it, not the other way around. With all the struggle and heartache of trying to be a “career artist” I almost lost sight of this essential truth.
When I became a full-time musician years ago, I thought I had achieved an important milestone in my career: I was an artist, sustained by the fruits of my creative labor. In retrospect, that was the exact moment I confused the means with the end. My priorities shifted to serve the business of music, not music itself. I believed being completely devoted to my career would eventually afford me the luxury of becoming an artist again, but over the years this became a more and more distant hope.
I started to reach my breaking point in 2008. I had been a professional musical artist for almost ten years, but despite four well received albums, extensive touring ,and a supportive, devoted core fan-base, every month was a struggle. I was determined to change that; my next album would be – had to be – my breakthrough. I worked tirelessly budgeting, fundraising, recording, and marketing the album. I secured an amazing studio and collaborated with an incredibly creative, well respected producer and top-notch musicians. We all believed it was a surefire winner, a chart-climber, a real contender. This time I couldn’t miss.
Except that I did.
Fans loved it; industry professionals commented on its great potential; but it wasn’t enough. It sold, but not hugely. I toured, but not profitably. In the midst of the decline of the music business, I spent two years pushing a heavy (and exquisitely beautiful) stone up a very steep mountain. I had no illusions about reaching the summit, but a lower peak would have been cause to celebrate. But I didn’t make a peak, the rock stalled on the slope…and started rolling back over me.
My life rapidly unraveled. My relationship fell apart. My bank accounts were depleted. And worst of all, my health began to collapse. Constantly traveling, I became more and more exhausted; I developed a persistent bronchial infection, and my compromised immune system became no match for every cold or flu bug I encountered. For eight months I was near pneumonia, and singing was exponentially harder than it had ever been in my life. I was physically more ill longer than I had ever been, but I thought I couldn’t afford to take a break from touring. I was spent – physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually.
The simple truth was, my “career” wasn’t working. In fact, it was slowly and literally killing me.
I’m not alone in this experience. So many of us envision a goal and become so wrapped up in what we believe it symbolizes and how it is perceived by others. We lose sight of its original intent and function. Somewhere in the struggle and sweat to keep our vision alive, we begin grasping. It happens to us in our careers, marriages and even our hobbies. We wrap our identities tightly around something and, in my case, would rather risk hospitalization than simply let go, forgive ourselves, and move on.
After feeling that I had nothing left to lose, I finally loosened the grasp and unwrapped the object of my desire. I was curious. How did I become so sick over this “thing” that I thought I loved and did in service to others? I discovered countless accounts of fans sharing stories like Katherine’s. My music was the soundtrack of their weddings, vacation videos, funerals, surgeries, the joy of courtships and the healing after breakups. To fans, my music was a shelter, a sanctuary. This wasn’t going to change if I decided to become a marketing analyst or brain surgeon. The music had a life of its own and it was successfully doing its job. It was no fault of the music that I was in such a career crisis.
Sometimes when we hit an “aha” moment, we feel that we’ve learned the wisdom and assume that is the end of our lesson. We trick ourselves into thinking that we can continue in our old habits and expect different results because we are wiser for our mistakes. We think seeing an error is the same as correcting it. In my experience, this has led me right back to the same crisis in a different disguise.
Eventually we begin to clearly see the source of our pain and fear. We discover that what we’re grasping are obsolete habits and tools that once served our survival. We realize we have other tools that are more relevant to what we are now facing. We discover the love and tenderness within us. We can forgive ourselves. We can laugh at ourselves and rediscovered simple pleasures. We can reconnect with our hearts’ desires and let grace lead the way. We can rekindle child-like curiosity about life’s mysteries and simple gifts. We can make new agreements and re-define our relationships.
For me, this agreement looks like creating and embracing a life in which music isn’t pressured to always be both nurturer and breadwinner- and in which my value as an artist is not always measured in dollars and cents. It resembles much more a life in which I realize daily that Katherine’s experience of the music is evidence of that grace and worthiness already at work and all I need to do is continue showing up to serve this grace and creativity each day.
Official Website: www.wendycolonna.com