I posted a quick video to my Facebook page yesterday where I asked two questions. The answers were surprising…but at the same time they weren’t.
The two questions were simply:
- What’s something you’re good at?
- What’s something you’re bad at?
My answers were that I’m a good guitar player, and I’m really bad at being consistent with anything.
I wasn’t trying to do some super-smart market analysis or anything. I just wanted to encourage people to be honest about both their strengths and weaknesses. But as the comments came in, an obvious thread emerged.
The answers to question 1 were all over the board, which is to be expected, but the overwhelming majority of people had the same answer to question 2. They admitted that they’re bad at finishing projects.
Comment after comment came in where people said they were good at starting projects, or coming up with arrangements or guitar parts, but so many of them said they stink at actually finishing any of those projects.
My favorite comment was this one from David Komel:
Hee hee hee…
These answers aren’t immensely surprising, but they do bother me. Sometimes I wonder if I should ease up on talking about the more “philosophical” aspects of home recording and simply put out tutorial after tutorial. After reading these comments, I’m even more fired up to find ways to help you finish more projects. After all, who cares how well you understand recording or mixing or EQ or your DAW if you never get around to using those tools to create and release a piece of music?
I’m still chewing on ways I can help more people overcome being stuck, but I’d like to start the discussion today with a statement:
The problem with being honest about your weaknesses is that it tends to bring with it a lot of shame. You admit that you’re bad at finishing things, and now you feel inadequate because of it. This kicks off a cycle where you’re less likely to get in the studio and work on something because you feel guilty about how long it’s been since you released something. So you put it off a little more.
Hear me now: You are normal.
Wanna know something? I am just as bad at finishing. Seriously.
Yes, I’ve released a few projects over the last few years, but those projects are just as plagued by second-guessing, fear, shame, doubt, and procrastination as any of your sessions. Remember what I said about consistency? I’m HORRIBLE at consistency. Being inconsistent is the only thing I do with any consistency.
A few things help get me out of the rut, but beating myself up about how I “shouldn’t be bad at this” isn’t one of them. It’s probably the nastiest culprit of all, because on top of being bad at being consistent, I also beat myself up about it.
Here’s what that looks like. First, I drop the ball on something. Take your pick. I’ve dropped all the balls at some point. Let’s say I drop the ball on doing something I promised to my VIP members. (VIPers are nodding their heads right now. They’ve seen it.)
Is it wrong for me to drop the ball? Absolutely.
But once the ball is dropped, my tendency is to feel shame about it and withdraw from the situation. Instead of admitting “wow, I screwed that up,” and putting my effort into making it right, I let me shame take over, and I ignore the problem. This (as you can imagine) only makes it worse…which leads to more shame, which leads to more isolation.
It’s a ridiculous cycle. It would be like if I stepped up to the plate in a baseball game and swung and missed the first pitch, then just walked back to the dugout. Yes, it’s bad to miss a pitch, but it’s way worse to completely take yourself out of the game.
Now you may be thinking, “Joe, don’t be so hard on yourself.” The thing is, I’m not being hard on myself. I’m not even being honest with myself. When I mess up, it threatens my image. “They might think I’m not perfect.” So I hide in order to avoid the truth that I indeed am not perfect.
Maybe I’m the only one who does this, but I have a sneaky suspicion I’m not. The more I’m able to accept the fact that I have some major flaws and stop beating myself up about having them, I can face them and perhaps even overcome them. But until I own up to the fact that I have them, none of this can happen.
It’s the same with you in your studio. Yeah, you suck at finishing projects. It’s okay. Accept it. Stop beating yourself up about it. You have too much great music inside of you to hold it in because of silly old fear and shame.
I originally planned to share some specific tactics with you, but I’ll save those for another day. For now, let that sink in.
You’re flawed. You’re normal.
And you’re certainly not alone.
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