A while back, I wrote about becoming a positive listener and the importance of being able to hear the positive things that are being said to us in a singing lesson.
Sometimes the need of training positive listening stretches outside of the singing lesson. We might not only be unable to hear the positive things that are being said to us in a lesson, but we might also be deaf or “immune” towards other positive comments or feedback about our singing in general, or about the shows and concerts we give.
I was reminded of this today, when I worked with a fabulous singer. She has her own show and is touring with it internationally, something many singers are dreaming of doing. Not only does she have a singing career that leaves many singers jealous, she can “sing the stars off the sky” – as the Dutch saying goes (“de sterren van de hemel zingen”). In other words, she can sing challenging repertoire including “Defying Gravity” from Wicked, like many singers would only dream of singing.
I’ve been working with this singer for a while and I can recognize when her “Inner Censor” is kicking in during the singing lessons, analyzing and making opinions about her own singing as the song proceeds. She’s like many other singers I know, making comments while we are singing (either verbally: “that sounded awful”… “that was supposed to sound different”…. or non-verbally, by rolling eyes or with various cringing facial expressions).
What breaks my heart is not only that she doesn’t believe my positive comments about her singing, but also that she is like so many other singers out there who keep telling themselves they absolutely suck at everything, despite all the positive comments they receive from their audiences, teachers or peers. It’s as if there’s this whole bunch of singers who act like Dobby the House Elf from Harry Potter, who keeps punishing himself. Instead of taking in the positive comments, we like to do this to ourselves:
DON’T BE A DOBBY, PLEASE…
I’d like to share another tip for becoming a positive listener with you, because we talked about it today with the singer I worked with. It’s a simple and powerful strategy: you document and keep track of all the positive feedback and comments you receive (about your singing, or sometimes even about other things). Keep doing this at least for one month.
This is especially good for people whose ‘Inner Critic Voice’ has become way too loud. And in case you wonder if your ‘Inner Critic Voice’ has become too loud, you’ll recognize this if:
- people tell you they loved your show
- if you keep being booked to do the job again and again
- if your vocal coach tells you what you’re doing is great
- people in your audience are touched or moved to tears
- or similar things
…but you still can come up with 1000 reasons why you are not satisfied with ANYTHING AT ALL about your singing.
THE ROSE BOOK
Christina Kürstein-Lecocq, who was one of my teachers at Complete Vocal Institute, once called a collection of positive comments “The Rose Book”, and because I really like that name I keep calling it the same. “The Rose Book” could be a notebook or journal (or iPhone/iPad app) in which you write down ALL the positive comments and feedback you receive. Think about those positive comments, and now imagine someone giving you a bunch of roses after a performance you’ve had (see why I love the name?).
…and now, I challenge you to keep a Rose Book for the coming month!
Here’s how it goes:
Write down every compliment you receive during the coming month. It might be a compliment about your singing. Or it might be a compliment about other things. Read your Rose Book and your compliments daily, or at least once a week.
Don’t be a Dobby, get started today!
This is one of my favorite TED talks. Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) talks about creativity and creative genius. She reminds us of the many impossible things we expect from artists.
The ancient Greeks and Romans did not believe creativity came from human beings. Creativity was considered something spiritual, and creative ideas came to human beings through divine attendant spirits. But the times changed. And so did people’s views on creativity. Instead of believing in all of us “having” a genius, we adopted the idea of a (rare) person “being” a creative genius.
And I got to tell you, I think that was a huge error. You know, I think that allowing somebody, one mere person to believe that he or she is like, the vessel, you know, like the font and the essence and the source of all divine, creative, unknowable, eternal mystery is just a smidge too much responsibility to put on one fragile, human psyche. It’s like asking somebody to swallow the sun. It just completely warps and distorts egos, and it creates all these unmanageable expectations about performance. And I think the pressure of that has been killing off our artists for the last 500 years.
– Elizabeth Gilbert in her TED talk on creativity
Gilbert’s talk is funny and inspiring, and it reminds us about the importance of showing up at the page and doing our creative work no matter what. Because then at least you did your part of the job.