Blue Throne


If you’re an artist, you may be familiar with this scenario. Sometimes friends, family members, partners or close associates offer us their well-intentioned tips and observations. They may be involved in the music business, but not at the vulnerable, volatile and often lonely coal face of songwriting and performance. It can be very uncomfortable when those who don’t walk in our shoes seem to think they know exactly what our next move should be, and what it is we are doing right and wrong. How do we let them know, with good grace and without causing offence – when we would like them to stop?

None of us wants to chew the heads off well-meaning, enthusiastic (and brave!) relatives or colleagues. They are doing us a favour by letting us know that our lives are of interest to them. They care enough to have an opinion and be passionate about it. They may view us as so formidable that it’s fun to push us a little, make us bristle. So what’s the problem? The trouble is with feedback and constructive criticism is that it takes a lot of energy to process – energy that’s already being deployed at full throttle. Trying to forge an artistic career is a start/stop, head-banging-against-brick-wall, relentless and already somewhat masochistic journey – even when things are going well…

Humour and levity are important. If we have gifts we should be humble and graceful about it, because… let’s face, it no-one likes a diva! Music is for sharing, healing and inspiring others, a service, a vocation, for sure. But I would guess that most artists are not, at their core, people pleasers. I’m certainly not! Principally, I create music for my own mental health – in order to give myself relief, healing and comfort – from the world and from myself. The knock-on benefits are wonderful, but they come second.

Here’s some tips for those moments when you are about to receive some advice that you did not ask for: 

•  Keep really still and notice where you feel the advice in your body. Does it activate panic and ego response? Does it throw you back into a family situation where you felt defensive and threatened? Can you challenge yourself to hear and accept the positive feedback? Saying a simple ‘thank you’ for a compliment is a vital social skill, as is letting negativity flow past you. Not complimentary? ‘thanks for your opinion’ is still a good phrase to practise.
•  Many people give advice that’s about them. I’ve done this myself, dispensing the supposed pearls of wisdom I wish I’d had. It can really get int the way of a person working out their own process in their own time and sometimes it’s best to shut up. Notice when you are doing this or when others are in this role with you. Let everyone own their own stuff. Try to speak to others in the way that you yourself would like to be spoken to. Think before you speak.
•  Experience has taught me the following. Professionally speaking, if you have already done, or are doing, (or have trained others how to do!) the advice you are being given – it’s a good idea to say so, pleasantly, but immediately. It saves everyone energy. But it also covers your back. You designed your journey – you don’t want others to take credit for teaching you what you already knew. Don’t stay silent if someone is trying to ‘take you under their wing’ in an inappropriate way.  Many people are into life coaching right now, so this especially relevant if someone is about to try to sell you advice that you don’t need and don’t want to buy.
• Is the advice giver a fledgling journalist, teacher or social commentator? If so, be kind. At this stage their ego is more fragile than yours. They may find it very exposing to express themselves and may need your support later. You are strong – can you afford to be big-hearted about it?
• Keep it clean. Keep it gracious. Be loving and accept love. It all come from and returns to love. Laugh at your own neurosis. Have the courage to expand and grow. Be grateful and mindful, bigger and stronger. But look ’em dead in the eye and don’t be afraid to let them feel the boundaries that are necessary for you to function as a creator.


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