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Sunday, March 18, 2007

it doesn't matter what they say, good or bad

new blog by gilli moon

"Happiness is inward, and not outward, and so it does not depend on what we have, but on what we are" - Henry van Dyke

In the early days of my time in Los Angeles, it was all about "showcasing" one's talents on the Sunset Strip, or anywhere close, to be heard and hopefully "picked up" by a record company, manager or agent. I wanted to be seen, and to be acknowledged by the music industry. I thought they would be able to tell me if I had the goods, or not. So did thousands of other artists. At the least, we all wanted good reviews by the media to stick in our media kit to help promote ourselves to record companies, managers and agents. Just when I thought I had lost hope in "being discovered", and running back to Sydney with my tail between my legs, I received an all out amazing live review of my show at Luna Park by Music Connection magazine, known to be L.A's best street music mag. I was so happy I cried. It changed my whole perspective on being here.

I felt like I had a chance, and I soaked up every word the review read. It wrote of my songwriting and performance style, but also about how MTV can't keep her away and if A&R person didn't sign me within the year, "somebody has dropped the ball". I interpreted it that I was so "hot" that someone had to discover me fast, because if they don't, then they will miss out. I was so caught up in this review, that I actually believed every word of it, for better and for worse. The good part was it inspired me to stay and continue my path here in the States. I knew I had a chance. The bad part was a year went by and there was no MTV and no A&R person. I started to think, "did someone drop the ball? Or. did I?"

Having a great review can really build our self-esteem as artists. But trying to live up to it can break you apart.

I have gone on to receive many reviews, accolades and awards. My bio and website are full of them, just in case you're curious. But I have learned, through riding the waves of criticism, adoration and the fine line in-between, that none of it is important. It doesn't matter what they say, good or bad, because all of that is part and parcel of the so-called illusion of the entertainment industry. We cannot be dependent on what someone says about us, or doesn't in order to carry on holding the artistic torch. Ultimately, we as artists must choose this path because it's in our nature not because people love us or think we are fabulous. When we can become unattached to what people think about us, or say about us, good or bad, then we truly are living with creative success, because only you alone can give yourself the approval and the love you will need to survive this business till the end.

Whatever someone says or writes about you, although flattering and seemingly true of the subject with which they write about, is not real. It's a pampering of your ego, that's all. It can help sometimes, because you can extract some good lines for your bio, to help shape your written story with good describing words, but it's just someone's perspective of you based on their own perception of life in general. Take the press and put it to good marketing use (for everyone else who laps up media reviews as some standard for success), but not you. You don't need a good review to be a successful artist, or to know if you're going in the right path. So, while it's cool to post a review on your site (I do) for great marketing purposes, meanwhile don't rely on these words to keep you positive, sane, on course, etc. All THAT is up to you, and you alone. Same with bad reviews. Yes, they will come. You get the bad with the good. It's the natural law of the universe. Life can't be perfect all the time. So knowing that, it should make you feel even more secure and confident that you can't take these reviews personally. It's just an IS in the world of art.

When reviews come, just understand that it's just someone's point of view based on their own lives, judgments, stories and experiences. It's their experience and it has no relation to who you are, how you got here, or your intention in the world. Just keep doing what you are doing, relying ONLY on your inner strength, confidence and knowing that you are the master of your own destiny - not- a victim to circumstance, and circumstantial evidence (someone's words).

When reviews come in for my music or projects that I have created, I thank them, I appreciate it, I may even use it for marketing purposes, but I don't believe them or buy into them as facts. I just appreciate them for what they are, good prose.

Here's why: I'll give you an example of how my assistant reacts differently to me in these situations, and how, in the end, my reaction ultimately empowers and saves me. (Don't worry, she knows I'm mentioning this and she is always amazed at how cool I am about it all.) When a great review or letter comes in, she usually jumps up and down with joy and wants to celebrate. She calls me or emails me with huge exclamation marks and big smiley faces and is overly excited, that she thinks that one review is going to be my next big opportunity for some magic pie in the sky wonderland of cotton candy clouds we are all going to fall into. I, on the other hand, take the review with appreciation, but then let it go. I usually say, "yeah, that's nice. Very thoughtful, glad they took the time to respond", or something in that vein. I remain cool, calm and collected. Don't get me wrong: I don't take reviews or praise for granted. No. I'm very appreciative of people who give their time to offer feedback. It's just, I am not so dependent, or influenced, by the feedback as to how the rest of my day will go. I don't like to be swayed either way. Because I know that the bad reviews come in also, and it's all a natural balance in how we operate as artists.

So, when we get a bad response, review or some negative episode happened, my assistant becomes depressed and saddened, and wants to console me or be consoled. I am still fine. I am still cool, calm and collected. I have learned not to take it personally. I know that whatever happened is not about me, but about that person's own reality, perceptions, expectations and judgments, and I have learned not to buy into that drama. Instead, I take it as feedback and then, swiftly, like the warrior, I cut away and move on.

Not taking things personally is one of the hardest things to do, but it really is the only way. Whether good or bad, I let things roll off me like water on a duck's back. Mind you, I used to be very sensitive to criticism and what people say. I guess I'm learning as I get older to not get so caught up in it,. and so is my assistant. Whether good or bad, I just keep soldiering on, no matter what, enjoying my creative process that I alone can approve of. It's no one else's right to tell me who I am or what I should be doing. This is my life. And so too, your life, your art, is yours.

I am more able to survive the ups and downs now because I don't get attached to the ego of wanting praise, or avoiding pain. In fact, ego has left the building long ago. I've come from the school of hard knocks, and that means that through all the good and the bad, I've found the middle ground,. the path of least resistance.

On an even higher note, consider this: who's to say that what you do and who you are is complete mastery and genius? How can anyone compete or criticize that when they have no credits of mastery themselves to judge you? And on what merits do we judge mastery? I suggest that we are all masters of our own art. Art is very difficult to evaluate. I studied Art Education for four years. Yep, I have a Bachelor of Education on this subject, and I still can't actually put my finger on how you can rate art from 1 to 10. You just can't. It's not about the quick exact answer, like math or science with multiple choice. Art is all subjective: held in the eye of the observer. So, what all schools rely on, when evaluating (testing) art for students, is the process. We try and evaluate the way students approach the process of making art.

Your live show, your album even, may somewhat constitute an end result of some kind, but in reality, all your performances and projects are manifestations of your ongoing process, your life journey.

On what authority and expertise can a critic's voice persuade you to actually believe their review? It's only based on a brief moment in time, and you're on a perpetual journey of becoming. Take them, leave them, love them, hate them, but no matter what, when it comes to other people's opinions, don't believe them. Just believe in you.

Furthermore, what constitutes a "talent" in the eyes of these music industry execs we are so-called "showcasing" for, waiting to be discovered by them? Do we spend our artistic lives waiting for these people to "find" us and "mold" us and tell us if we are good or bad, genius or not, deserving of some deal or no deal, or... do we just GET OUT THERE anyway and make it happen with or without them? I think you know the answer. Why wait for someone to "discover" you, when really, you've been discovering yourself for years.

- by gilli moon

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