WORDS TO THE WISE

So, Emmylou, Linda and Joni walk into a bar.…

There is no punch line, and sadly Kajsa walked into too many bars and frittered away her chances at stardom.

On the other hand, was there really any chance? Now, in old(er) age, she finds it necessary to examine some realities and pass them on, perhaps to save some other ambitious musician from making the same mistakes.

What DO you have to do? Honestly? The answers are as painful to me as sitting on a cactus. Some of them I didn’t have much control over, but some I damn well did, woe is me. This list is nowhere near all of it; I’ll just jot things down as they come to me.

  • You have to love what you’re doing, so much that you really don’t let anything interfere.
  • You have to love yourself doing it, so much that you can’t be knocked down.
  • You have to love everyone else who’s doing it, so you can learn from them, work with them, enjoy their company, and maybe even influence them.
  • You have to (ideally) have a car, a baby-sitter, the ability to change strings and tires and cherished plans.
  • You have to thrive on the unexpected.
  • You either have to have had a supportive family who rooted for you all the way, or, lacking that, you have to forgive the one that tore you down, competed with you, abandoned you, ridiculed you, starved you, or whatever your particular sad fate was.
  • You have to thank everyone who ever helps you.
  • You have to remember people’s names. How? As a teacher who remembered the names of hundreds of students said, ‘You listen.’
  • So you have to listen. Always. Everywhere. To everyone. You have no way of knowing who or what will turn out to be important.
  • You have to keep learning, even when you think you pretty much know it all.
  • You have to consider advice and criticism very carefully, though you do not have to accept it.
  • You need to not take anything personally.
  • You need to understand that your genre, your taste, your idiom could not possibly be the only right one.
  • You need to stay young in your heart and your opinions, and it’s never too early to start.
  • You have to be on time for appointments, return calls and mail, and maybe get a secretary.:)
  • You need to keep your personal life in order. Well, plenty don’t—but it really helps if you are not bogged down by domestic strife, slovenliness, addictions, neuroses, demons, woolgathering, or any of the deadly sins. Since there is no living example of any star avoiding all these things, I only include them as food for thought.
  • You need to treat competitors (and that’s what they are, in a way) with kindness and tenderness, because their skins are probably not as thick as you think. Yet your own skin needs to keep thickening.
  • You have to ride along with your mistakes, steering and correcting as you go. A horribly wrong note can lead into a fantastically creative solo, so don’t just grimace and apologize. Own it.

Oh, there are so many more. But perhaps they all fall into one or another of the above.

I did want to continue writing my blog, and I probably will, but first I had to get this out of the way. Reading back over my own stumbling, emotion-strewn path made me kind of sad for a while, and I thought, who would want to read this? Who wants to read about the people I almost knew, the show I almost got to play, the record I almost made, the manager I almost got, the song I almost sold?

You, maybe. My reader. You are probably not Emmylou, Linda or Joni. You probably have struggled and suffered and stumbled, as I have. You are probably thrilled if anyone remembers a single thing you did back in your glory days—days which were very likely not that glorious.

And like me, you probably have had a wonderful ride anyway, success or no. If you have had a wonderful ride, of course, then that—according to today’s life coaches—is success.

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