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Nothing’s Good Enough

August 11, 2010
AUGUST 11, 2010 7:02AM

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 I quit. I give up.

Nothing’s good enough for anybody else

it seems.

-Edie Brickell, “Circle of Friends.”

Everyday just as I was getting to work composing my boss came in and started ragging on me. “Listen to this piece of shit.” “I Don’t know what your problem is, but you gotta try harder.” “Whatever your old stuff had, you’ve lost it.”

He usually left after he’d had his say, and I’d get to work, get stuff done, though from time to time he’d poke his head in and give me a nasty look, just to make sure I wasn’t enjoying myself too much.

It was unfair. I was working as hard as I could.  You’d think it would piss me off, that I might at least try for some snarky repartee, “If you think it’s so easy you try it.” “What brilliant stuff have you written lately?” If not one of my wife’s favorite Ohioisms, “Well fuck you and the horse you rode in on.” But it was my gig, my only gig. Anyone will tell you music is tough. Especially composing. You know anyone who hires composers? Didn’t think so.

So I just sucked it up. Except it made me totally miserable. I started believing that asshole, doubting my talent, my ability to do it any more.

When a good royalty check came you’d think he’d be happy, as it’s the usual 50/50 split. Sometimes he’d give me a pass for a few days, but more often it was, “Oh that’s just your old stuff performing on that check. Not this junk you’re writing now.”

It’s hard to believe, but it went on for years.

One day I quit. The funny thing is it wasn’t at all dramatic when I finally did it.

Because you see….I work for myself. That jerk that came to give me a hard time every morning was just some voice in my head, though admittedly a very loud one.  My problem was that I didn’t know the boss was there, didn’t know he was talking. I thought he…was me.

Now I don’t suffer from multiple personalities, like the 17 faces of Eve, or whoever it was. I don’t have a 7 different guys and a couple of girls living in my head, some of them real psychos, never know when one or the other will pop out and put on some Southern accent or do something really crazy like steal a car or strip naked in Trader Joe’s and start singing Bee Gee’s songs.  But I did go see a shrink about my problem, which is how I got to quitting.

I explained to her how I felt each morning, like I no longer wanted to do this thing I’d once loved more than most things in the world. How it was so painful.  She said a simple thing, which when she said it barely registered, because it sounded like something I’d heard before. “What are your thoughts when you’re getting to work in the morning?”

I went back to torturing myself. I stopped seeing that shrink, didn’t find another one. Then one day I noticed that it wasn’t so bad. And it kept getting better. Somehow without even trying I’d taken her advice,  started listening to the boss in my head. And just becoming aware of his critical thoughts – not the gloomy feelings he evoked, nor the lethargy in my body, but just his words – got me free.

My old boss shows up from time to time. He’s still a nasty fuck. Except he’s no longer my boss. I say, “Hey, why don’t you go get a job, ya bum?”


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i have always loved circle of friends for that very line you quoted. i too, though not in an artistic field, work for msyelf, and some days, its just hard to get out of bed….glad you’re doing much better. rated!

Thank you, bethybug, I just checked out your blog and want to read more.

Hoop – my wife just found your list of musician jokes (something about perps?) She thought it was a riot. I was reminded of many recording sessions….you have clearly been around. You’re first call next time we need that Kazoooo.

I wish my inner boss would get the plague 🙂 glad you conquered yours.
What a very clever twist!!! I enjoyed this VERY much!

Julie, I wish a plague on yours also, the flue too.

Kit, I’ve always enjoyed a good twist in a story. Glad you liked this try.

I think many of us have that voice in our head. Perhaps it is the voice of a critical parent. I am not sure exactly what the clickwas that you got from her actual advice…maybe once you really tuned in to the thoughts, you could see that they were not based on reality
Snarky – Thanks for reminding me that some shrinks call a certain inner voice “critical parent.” Not that either of mine were at all critical, nooooo.
Interesting take on the subject of difficult bosses!
You can use that boss; think of Keyes in Double Indemnity.

Good work!

I am reminded every day that I’m my own worst critic of my writing. I often write something and think, “That’s just crap, who wants to read it?” After a few edits, I tentatively submit it here to OS and find lots of positive reinforcement. It helps.

It also helps to remind myself that while I have a long body of good work, I have actually gotten better with time. Every time I write, I am practicing, honing, exercising my craft and all it’s muscles. The end result is getting better by the day.

As artists, we need to learn to silence that “inner asshole” who will always say we can’t when we surely can.

It’s hard being creative, especially for pay. If you find it hard to turn your back on your gift, then you probably should keep at it.
those voices can really get to you sometimes. i know mine can be real assholes. great post here!
Excellent. Who knew that was the key? Now, we do.

Muse old bean, I have been there. As you know (or maybe not), I am a Clay Person. As in I don’t make dishes, I hand-build some pretty cool stuff. (More on that at a later date._

I have a tendency to fiddle around. I get into a mind-set where it has to be PERFECT, so I’ll literally poke, prod, detail and muck about for weeks on a single piece. This is not always a good thing. Knowing when something is “done” is crucial, especially when the returns don’t warrant the work.

I had an instructor once who took away all my tools but three, handed me a bag of clay (that’s 25 pounds) and said, “Make something. NOW. You have three hours and I will take it away from you until after it’s fired.”

Whaddaya know? I did and do some of my best work that way. Overthinking kills.

I sing, but I always wanted to be able to write music. That jerk was probably unhappy himself. That’s usually how it works.
Rated with total empathy, even though I still have an “outer” boss or two as well . . .
Darn internal critics, huh? I had quite a show down with mine a few years back too.What was that the Who said? New boss, …same as the old boss.”

Tell your wife the saying about the horse was quite popular on the Canadian side of Lake Erie too! Congrats on the EP, my musical friend.

Nice lead-in. I have that same boss. And interestingly, as long as that boss lives on in your head, it manifests itself in real people with whom you work…at least I’ve noticed that. As within, so without, as they say.

And what’s wrong with singing the Bee Gees? I’m going to sing them loud and proud right now. I shall choose…Jive Talking. Woo hoo! Did you know that the opening riff was inspired by the sound of riding a subway in NYC…or something like that.

From someone who has no talent whatsoever, I really liked this. I’m glad you were able to put the “Boss” in his pace, hopefully for good!
I think our inner boss is sometimes the harshest! Glad yours only shows up once in a while! R
Art does seem frequently to be extracted from some level of anguish, huh? Okay, so that is what I tell myself to make it work 😉 Great post!
That sounds interesting. What do you do, bring work around to ad agencies or something? I’m always recording instrumental music myself.

From → Composing, Writing

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