The Name Game - Anne's Perspective
I think we know intuitively if not specifically that there is power in naming something. We choose names for our children, pets, cars, guitars… We have nicknames for friends and not-so-friends. A name defines and somehow changes the object in terms of endearment, expectations, etc. When we have a disease or a fear, the power of naming it often provides a bit of comfort. ("So that's what it is!")
Native Americans had secret sacred names as well as their everyday, common names. Only the individual and the medicine man were privy to the secret name. It held their essence, power.
At times I’ve held the title “musician” or “artist” nearly as a secret name, scared to let too many people know that’s what I really am. Why? I adopted some of the negative connotations society still likes to attach to “artist” or “musician”—starving, inconsistent, moody, destructive, unstable… I’ve feared a different level of success and expectation was attached to the title Musical Artist. I’ve been afraid that my tribe would not accept me as wholeheartedly. I’ve feared to not be taken seriously, or taken too seriously. (Art is fun, after all.)
In avoiding clearly labeling myself as a musician, I have been avoiding expectation. I’ve found when answering the question of “what do you do?” with “I’m a musician”, few leave it at that. Then it’s sort of along the lines of, “Oh, yeah? Are you good? Show me your stuff.” Even if not stated exactly like that, I feel the question is often implied, as though we must prove ourselves to be worthwhile for investing so heavily in something that is often seen as frivolous. (Do we do this to other professionals? “I’m a baker.” “Oh yeah? What’s the best thing you’ve ever baked?”…)
So for years I’ve been able to qualify the “what do you do?” question with “…but I also teach biology part-time”, as though that somehow made me a more responsible, normal, you-can-talk-to-me-and-trust-me sort of person. It seemed to ease worry that I was making enough money or contributing to society, or, more simply, that I was someone that was relatable. And, if someone was wanting to complain about monotonous work or challenges or dealing with people, I could chime in (although, for the record, I really enjoyed teaching for the most part).
For the first time, however, I am saying “I am a full-time musician”. In making this choice, in making this declaration and in clearly naming myself, in a short 2 weeks I have seen change. I work with intensity as well as focus. The steps are clearly before my feet and I’m not left procrastinating or wondering what to do next. My playing and singing at gigs has improved. I am being offered more work—gigs, lessons, songwriting. And, I’m working with a lot of joy. It’s a different ease, as though I’ve put on the comfy clothes that fit and make me feel like I can do anything.
The Name Game - Zak's Perspective
I am a musician. I’m more than simply this one thing, but “musician” is the thing that I am the most. For years I’ve not wanted to identify as solely a musician. It was partially fear. I was afraid that people would think I needed to grow up. That I was chasing a pipe-dream like the stereotypical brother-in-law on some middling sitcom. I was also embarrassed of admitting that is who I truly am. Why? I am…over-educated. I have a bachelor’s in education and a law degree. I taught 4th grade and represented abused children in child abuse cases, but I wanted to make music more than anything. I reserved almost all of my free time I could muster to write & record music. I was always in one band or another. Anybody who knew me well knew damn well that I was a musician above all else…yet I was so hesitant to let people know who I am.
Last week was my first week as a full-time musician. Anne Luna & I discussed our feelings about it here. I left my law job to focus on making my own music and produce music for others. For the first time, someone asked, “what do you do?” “I am a producer & performer. I make music for myself & others.”
You know what? It is awesome. I’m not embarrassed. I’m chasing my dream & I’m proud of it. Something else happened too, music is coming to me. It’s weird, but I’ve already had clients reach out to me to book studio time and co-writing sessions. Clubs that hadn’t returned my emails in weeks started reaching out to book my band. I released a new single with almost no build up or promotion & the response has been great. My wife posted a video talking about how we are both following our passions and the response has been amazing. I’m grateful for all the positive words that have come in the forms of emails, comments, text messages, & phone calls. Now that I’m open and honest with who I am it’s like the world is immediately giving back to me, which is so encouraging.
This is some hippie stuff here, but I honestly believe that if we are willing to accept who we are, the world will support us. By the way, I’m not bagging on hippies, y’all are generally lovely people.
Speaking of names...we don't really know what to call this blog, or our podcast/video series. If you have a name suggestion please fire it over to email@example.com, leave it in the comments below, or hit me up on the twitter machine @Zak_Sloan.
How many of you have ever noticed that labeling something can give it real power? If so, please share in the comments below!