A couple weeks ago, I was invited by a friend to play in his writers round at the Bluebird Café.
I was going to perform in a round with absolutely killer musicians, writers, and singers.
And I was going to be bringing my dorky little pop songs.
I practiced every day in the week before. We had a group rehearsal. Everybody was friendly and warm and inviting and we had a great time learning each other songs. Things were going well.
The day swiftly approached. And I was so not ready.
I’m talking panic attack not ready. I worked the day of the show and frequently needed to excuse myself to restroom to calm down. “But I’ve practiced?” I told myself. “I know my songs inside and out, my guitar is tuned, my change of clothes and all my make up is here, everyone is super cool. My fiancé will be there to cheer me on. So why am I freaking out?”
Because I was about to play the Bluebird Café?
Even in the days before the television show Nashville, the Bluebird Café has always been somewhat of an institution. A milestone in the career of a songwriter.
Despite all the pomp and circumstance, I realized that no, it’s not necessarily the Bluebird that had me breaking out in a cold sweat.
I realized that this is simply a trend in my life.
No matter how large or how small the crowd, no matter how prestigious or divey the venue, I will never feel completely ready to play.
It’s because I’m a perfectionist. It’s because I know I can be so much better than I am. It’s because I understand that I’m not the best player or singer or writer or artist or even person in the room.
This is the monologue of my inner critic, disguised as humility. She’s a total crabby bitch and I hate her.
But sometimes she is good for one thing. Her venom and vitriol can be used as a compass.
If my inner bitchy critic tells me to not get on stage, then I know I need to get on stage.
If she’s whispering in my ear that I am not playing well and nobody is enjoying my performance, then I must sound better than I realize.
Often times people will tell you to listen to your inner critic because that’s what makes you better. I think there’s a huge misconception there. Constant criticism doesn’t make you better. Giving into a voice that demands total perfection does not make you better.
What makes you better is realizing that you’re bitchy inner critic is completely unreasonable.
She wants the impossible. You will never be able to satisfy her. And you know what? She will never be happy. Because that’s what she does. She bitches about everything.
What’s going to make you better is realizing that she’s a crabby whore and you shouldn’t listen to a single thing she says.
Use her voice as a compass. If she wants you to point south, you need to face north. If she says “Naw, that song isn’t finished yet. You can do better.” then you need to listen to your gut and decide whether or not the song is actually the best it can be.
Nothing will ever be perfect. Stepping out on stage may never be anything other than terrifying. But don’t let a snobby bitch who doesn’t even exist keep you from getting to your goals.
If you don’t feel ready, then you’re ready.
P.s. Here’s some photo evidence I survived the night. I’m the one in peach who needs a haircut.
My round-mates are so fantastic, and I’m proud to call them friends! Check out their amazing music below.
Cliff Goldmacher – Songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, teacher, and so much more!
Erika Chambers & Kyle Aaron – Two of the three members of the story telling Americana band, Mercy Child.
Matt Koziol – Toe tappers and heart breakers, this guy will make you feel some things.