If you’ve ever thought that great musicians seem so natural, living in the moment on stage, there’s something you should know. They work very hard to provide that effect to you. In reality, much of what you see is a carefully studied, planned presentation that is designed to give spectators the impression of spontaneous joy and excitement.
It’s analogous to those pictures of models you see everywhere, in department stores and catalogues, who look so natural, but whom in reality have been artfully posed and skillfully doctored to give exactly that impression. The same with some of your favorite writing, which seems as easy to write as it is to read. Not so: writers labor years, editors correct, publishers veto, and you get the final, sculpted result.
There’s nothing wrong with this contrived presentation. The artistic person’s job is to provide an experience that will enhance the audience’s sense of being alive. Those experiences are much harder to create than most people realize.
If the artist does their job, then the audience may, in fact, have that expanded sense of living. They may even take it with them into their ordinary lives and share it with others. It’s a blessing, and it’s real.
Sadly, many artistic types are people who find it very difficult to live in the moment, to have genuine relationships with others, even to enjoy their life at all. Being unable to live in the moment naturally, they are forced to learn what others do without thinking about it. Some of these unlucky people are able to translate that learning into something they can present, and can gain acceptance.
Not all artists are neurotic to that extent. However, it’s worth telling anyone that endeavors to create art of any kind that if we are seeking to emulate our idols, we should not expect to feel the way the audience feels. In fact, we may be working so hard to create the effect that we could never feel it.
We mustn’t beat ourselves up because we don’t experience elation and exultation every time we perform. We mustn’t consider ourselves failures because the writing doesn’t flow out of us like melted gold. If we want results, most of us have to actually learn how to generate them, and that’s all right.
There is a silver lining to this cloudy expose. A very, very few artists reach the point where they are so comfortable with the process of creating their work that they can actually let go. They’re so good at what they do that they don’t have to think about it anymore, and the audience is treated to the effective presentation made by the person who is genuinely living in the moment.
This is what we should aspire to as creative and performing types, in my opinion. We may not get there, or we may not get there every time. The important facts are that, having done our homework, we should strive for those kinds of on-stage experiences, and then be nice to ourselves if we don’t have them.
Are you one of the lucky ones who feels alive in the moment you are performing? Have you always felt like a failure because you never felt the way you thought you were supposed to? Are you surprised to learn that you don’t have to be in love to write a love song?