It’s not called ‘working’ a musical instrument

Fear of others’ opinions tends to be the number one motivator towards me becoming a workaholic. I believe I have to live and breathe the music I am playing, the essay I am writing, the relationship I am forming in order for it to be worthwhile. I fear not only failure, but more sinister is the fear of unfulfilment. The knowledge that I could have done more/better/differently. Rarely is the sole motivation for the music itself and the joys of musical expression.


The harsh reality is that this ‘living’ malarkey requires equanimity and a foundation of unconditional positive regard. I, however, work aside to play, never letting the two meet. I work, always believing I am in a deficit of time, dreading the long hours I force upon myself. Nothing will be quite good enough, but that keeps me pushing myself and I kind of like it that way.

I want to challenge this pressure. How organic are its origins and how sustainable is the mindset?

I have found myself often wishing for a different, less demanding profession, one with days off and freedom to breathe. I didn’t realise that the reality of my situation is that it is entirely possible to live and breathe alongside work. The living aids the working and vice-versa.

Trust in this capacity is certainly a muscle that needs strengthening. It can be difficult to let go of obsession and control, something that I looked at when in therapy for obsessive-compulsive disorder, but it is essential to be aware of it to allow yourself to live a full life. The anxiety of the initial withdrawal from musical compulsion is great as you delve into the unknown, but it soon becomes clear that the world hasn’t stopped, your value still stands and you are motivated to ‘just go for it’.

It might be that my playing deteriorates through relinquishing control, but if I can’t perform, practice and work alongside adventure and expression then I don’t want to do it any more. I owe it to myself to breathe first and then see what happens to my playing.

Can We Really Make Music?

Can we really make music?

It doesn’t pull me to try

Pushing one word from aches

Five sounds from melodies I

Remember to attain their brilliance


Stay close, don’t pass my gifts so freely

The birds might not cry for a tune of mine-

Lift soft breathing from the sleeping

Air and lie within it now


I remind myself, hard, hold on

At the mercy of all this beauty

Can’t I see, pass it on must

I live by its side, stroke its

Hair, watch it leave my sight?


Again I sit, perhaps 100 times

More luck from lifting the world

Beyond her pains- thrill me

To speak change through words-

The letters of a leaking sky


Take away any strong feeling, tell

Any folk singer to stay still-

Wild roughness of rainstorms my

Fears react to change, my hopes,

My songs remain unscathed