Part 2: Day By Day

(Check out Part 1 here.)

I want to seize the moment and better my self. Improve my life. Be the best I can be personally and professionally. I want to DO something with my life. I want to honour the abilities I possess. I have so many good ideas and big dreams. I have goals, man. Goals. Huge ones. But are pursuing lofty goals the best way to go, or is there a better approach?

I recently started researching the issue of goals versus habits and made some very interesting discoveries. I read two articles which frankly, have been life changing:

Scott Adams’ Secret of Success: Failure

and

Forget About Setting Goals: Focus On This Instead

I don’t want to regurgitate these articles in short form, you should read them yourself. But let me share with you my thoughts and actions as a result of spending time pondering the ideas presented.

Goals are intimidating. And they look huge because, frankly, they are – at least for me. They represent a culmination of a long journey. I have been journeying in music a long time already and know that along the way the ultimate destination may change. It has for me, a few times. So it makes more sense to focus on the journey, what happens day to day, and let the resolution of that journey take care of itself.

Not only does it makes sense, it is much more rewarding to focus energy on what is going to happen today, instead of where you want to be in a year’s time, even though those two things are ultimately related. Daily you have the opportunity to achieve something and feel great. Or maybe you don’t achieve anything but all you have to do is go to sleep before trying again. We all crave instant gratification, right? Let’s use that addiction to our advantage!

The question I now ask myself is: what do I need to do today to move me towards my ultimate goals? What daily habits do I need to form in order to be the person I want to be?

The first one I tackled was journaling. This is an easier one for me because I really enjoy writing. I also paired it with one of my other favorite activities: drinking coffee. I have always known journaling was a good thing for me because of the way I process life, and it was surprising how often I avoided it in the past. When I journal I hold myself accountable and face up to how well, or poorly, I am doing. Not always easy to do, thus the avoidance. I knew that it would therefore be a great tool in helping me develop further habits. I have journaled almost every day since I committed to it in December. It has been good for my mental health and has helped me, as I predicted, in developing other habits.

When deciding what habits to develop I imagined walking to a room in ten years time and seeing myself. What was she like? How did she live? What had she done? Then I thought about what I could do today, tomorrow and the next day to become that person. I made a list of habits to develop to place me on that road and keep me there. I’m happy to share some of them with you, but they aren’t earth shattering. They are simply important to me.

The habits I’m developing include composing more prolifically, practicing piano, moving more (walking, running, yoga), eating better, quality time with loved ones……… I told you: nothing especially remarkable! But every time I journal I check in with myself. How did I do today? If I composed, played piano, did yoga, and ate healthfully then let me tell you: I feel brilliant! And if I didn’t achieve anything then I look to the next day: how can I find a way to fit those things in tomorrow? How is the day shaping up?

The thing I love about all this is that it feels easier, so much easier and much more rewarding. When I look at the habits I want to develop it feels achievable. Fun, even. I do not feel intimidated. Rather I feel empowered.

There is so much more evidence on the power of habits and I encourage you to check it out. Apparently it takes at least two months to develop a new habit. It is not going to happen overnight, nor without a lot of work. But nothing worth doing is easy.

What I have always kept with me on my creative journey is the idea of being relentless. Being a weed, constantly growing, pushing through every obstacles into the light. I know see those habits as making me stronger, each healthy a habit is like a power-up, aiding my relentless pursuit of my creative life.

I will leave you with this post from Mark Manson who asks the question: What are you willing to struggle for? Surely becoming the person we want to do be, and having a fulfilled creative existence, is worth every bit of energy we can muster.

I would love to hear your thoughts. All the best as you continue your creative journey.

 

 

Eyes Forward

“Fix your eyes forward on what you can do, not back on what you cannot change.”
Tom Clancy

One thing I am so grateful for is to be part of a fantastic composer community. When I launched into composing as a full-time career in Seattle, one of the first things I did was join the Seattle Composers Alliance. There I met many great composers who became dear friends. Their generous sharing of knowledge and their friendship played a great part in helping me become the composer I am today.

When I moved to LA I joined the Society of Composers and Lyricists, became an active part of the Academy of Scoring Arts, an administrator at SCOREcast and attended the LA Scoring Salon as often as possible. I also met composers through my PRO ASCAP. It is such a blessing to have these talented peers and mentors in my life. However……

(Get ready for the big “but” people, because here it is!)

Comparison.

The timeless art of lining up your actions and achievements against that of your peers and inevitably falling short. It is such a killer! You are doing your thing, working away, and then you see that tweet or that facebook update of a peer. They are excited to share with you the movie they just landed, their game that is now on Steam, the award they just received, or the red carpet they just sashayed down.

Suddenly what you are doing seems pointless. “Why isn’t that me? I should be doing something like that!” you say to yourself. An hour or three later you realize you have just spent a big chunk of time worrying about your direction and consequently you have not only wasted time, but you now feel depressed and are so paralyzed with fear and regret that you don’t want to work anymore. All hope of productivity has left the premises and you are now feeling useless.

You know what I am talking about, right? Tell me you’ve been here…

Comparison has always been a killer, but in the event of social media I think it is even more challenging to avoid. I spend more time than I should on Facebook and Twitter and in that time I cannot avoid seeing all the accomplishments of my fellow creatives. I try my best to be happy for them. They are, after all, awesome at what they do and absolutely deserve success when it finally finds them. So: what to do?

Click Like. Favorite that tweet and move on. Keep your eyes forward, my friends. Remember that your story is unique. The way you find success will likely be very different to the path of your friends. The question you should be asking is not “why aren’t I doing that?” It should be: “What is my plan?” “What are my goals?” “Am I on track to achieve the taks I have outlined for myself?”

A healthy question to ask in response to seeing the success of your friends is “If I want to get to that point, am I taking the appropriate steps?” Spend time reevaluating your path. Maybe walk through your progress with a mentor and receive and utlize their feedback. But then move on.

Eyes forward, my friends. Keep walking your path. Acknowledge the fear rising from your belly. Breath out the anxiety, breath in some fresh air, and get to work.

Catherine Grealish is a composer for film, games and anything else she can get her hands on. She is currently scoring the feature-length doc The Art of Walking Barefoot, the horror short Red Red and the video games Ancient Aliens by ZeroPoint Studios and The Hole Story by Learn District. Find out more about Catherine here.

Are you a Professional or an Amateur?

If you have read my previous blog posts you would have read me rave (at least once) about Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art. This book helped me embrace the fact that I needed to be a composer. To that point I had been going after a “shadow career” (one of his very apt terms) as a music teacher but my soul knew that it wasn’t going to cut it. I needed to make a change. And I did! That was 2010.

I am still a work in progress; very imperfect and still very young in my career as a composer. I have been scoring full time since 2010 and in LA since late 2012. There is still A LOT for me to learn! I read a great article recently on how you reach certain plateaus in your creative life and I have been feeling it the last few weeks. I think the best way to put it is that, creatively, I have been feeling flat. Not enjoying the plateau, at all.

As you may know, I run a meetup for creatives on the 2nd Tuesday of every month in Los Angeles called the Film, Music and Media Happy Hour. Not only do I love creating an environment for people to connect and creative community, I also love providing the extra incentive of cool door prizes. Who doesn’t like a raffle? So I have been keeping my eye out for great gifts for creatives. On a whim I reached out to Steven Pressield for a signed copy of “The War of Art”, a book I fervently believe every creative should read. Not only did he respond to my email immediately, he also delivered with a box of books! The box included 3 copies of The War of Art, Turning Pro and The Authentic Swing.

Turning Pro literally yelled at me from the box: “READ ME”. Just the words in the title confimed what had been sneaking around my conciousness: we need to turn a corner. We need to make a change.

I am not going to do a full on book report because, like War of Art, this is a quick and easy book to read. You just need to get it and spend a few hours with it. Believe me, it is worth it. My husband read it today. He wants to re-read it tomorrow but ultimately that will depend on whether I am re-reading it……

What I do want to do is tell you about the changes I want to make to fully embrace the Professional existance. They aren’t earth shattering but I think, for me, they will make a huge difference.

For some reason, I hate making good habits. There is a rebel in me that just wants to fight that for some illogical reason. I often will stay up late just because I love it and I remember when I wasn’t allowed to. Now I can! So take that Tomorrow Catherine who needs to wake up early tomorrow: FAIL. Why would I not be nice to my tomorrow self and get some rest?!

Well, that Rebel Catherine has had her time. Now it is the era of Professional Catherine having her shot. I am going to create good habits. One of these habits will be that when I am composing, I won’t be checking FB, email, twitter etc. I will take the necessary steps to create a focused working environment. free of distractions, so I can Engage, have a chance to enter a Flow state and do some great work. Or not great work. Doesn’t matter: I will be setting myself up for success.

I feel a little more comfortable blogging this to you because today I worked as a professional and engaged in distraction-free composing. I composed for 6 hours with a short lunch break and time zoomed by. Now I am thoroughly enjoying a glass of wine and episodes of Season 10 of Project Runway because I feel Good. I created great music in a focused productive environment today and as a result I am relaxing free of shame and guilt. It is Amazing People. You should try it!

I am working on a few other professional habits: consistent practice on the two instruments I love (piano and violin). Consistent studying. Consistent  exercising. (Remember the Pricess Bride? “If you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything.”) I am sick of feeling guilty about not doing these things and I am tired of worrying that I won’t fulfil my true potential. If this is all there is, then one must give it everything.

I hope these words are helpful. It is humbling to tell you just how lame my previous creative habits have been. I always justified them to myself (“But I get a lot of work from clients from FB!” True, but even so: Focus & Engage. DO IT NOW!) However, if I want to get off this plateau and make the next climb, something needs to change, and I am confident this is it.

Happy creating, my friends. I really hope you read Pressfield’s books. I am confident you will be inspired and find a way to become a Professional, the way your soul so longs to be.