Archive for August, 2013

Tangled in Cobwebs

Yesterday, I had the privilege of helping Joey Schumann, a Christian artist who does Celtic music, to record violin parts for one of his upcoming CDs. It was a lot of fun and a great experience, and I’m grateful for any such opportunity I can get. The hard part was keeping my shoulders and neck from tensing up after about three or four hours of recording.100_1930 edited
Mostly, I played each melody line about five times through. Once I’d finished with that, I listened to what I had just played and simultaneously recorded a harmony part underneath it—five times. Then I did the same thing with a different harmony line—five times. After those parts were finished, I’d go back and re-record some parts that hadn’t gone well or fit with the song. And then we’d move on to the next song and repeat the whole process. This method of recording works great for getting multiple tracks and striving toward perfection on every piece, but it was taking a toll on my muscles. It didn’t matter that my mind and soul were enjoying the music and wanted to keep going; my body wanted to quit.
I’m willing to bet that almost every artist—in fact, almost everybody—runs into this roadblock sooner or later. Perhaps for you, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41b, NIV). In other words, you have a job that you know you need to get done and you look forward to doing, but your body is so tired that you don’t know if you’ll be able to do the job. Or maybe it’s the reverse: your body is plenty rested and healthy, but just thinking about the job you need to do makes you groan. Perhaps you have to fill out paperwork or have a difficult conversation with someone. In any case, whether it’s physical or emotional, our reluctance grabs at us like sticky cobwebs, slowing us down and trying to keep us from reaching our goal.
Sometimes it seems like procrastination and perseverance are continually at war inside me. Procrastination stops me from doing my job; perseverance keeps me going once I start. I have to stop procrastinating and start my job before perseverance can begin to take effect.
For me in the recording studio, I was able to forget about my sore muscles for the most part and concentrate on completing the recording session. (This was easier after a few quick stretches, a couple of massages, and lots of encouragement.)
What’s slowing you down? What’s keeping you from going forward? What hesitations have gotten you so tangled up that you think you can’t get out of them? Whatever the case may be, we all need to get past our reluctant selves and focus our eyes on Jesus. After all, he showed the ultimate example of perseverance: first chasing after his people for generations, then placing one foot in front of the other on his way to the cross. Let’s shove off those cobwebs and keep walking until we reach our destination.
God bless your day!
Alicia Michelle
“Then [Jesus] called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’” (Mark 8:34, NIV).

Hidden Compartments

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of work in the world of musical composition. I’m really hoping to put together a lot more songs that my siblings and I can take on the road. As I’ve been working on this, I’ve also been looking at a few different styles of music for public domain tunes I can borrow. The styles include hymns, Gospel music, Christian contemporary music, and folk tunes. They’re all great fun to listen to and perform—I’ve just been trying to figure out which tunes to focus my attention on. And that got me thinking about myself as an artist. Who exactly am I in the artistic community? What do I do that makes me unique? In short, what style of music defines me?

Now, I’m not sure I’ll be able to specifically answer that question now or any time in the near future. But really, all artists have something that they’re passionate about, whether they share that passion with others or not. Whether it’s music, craftsmanship, photography, painting, drawing, writing, dancing, or acting, artists enjoy their art thoroughly and naturally want to share their joy with others. Unfortunately, our own doubts and fears often manage to creep in and hinder us from revealing our passions to others in the community.

You know the voices I’m talking about. Those are the thoughts that keep whispering, “What if this or that happens? Why should they look at what I’ve done? I’m nobody special.” And when we listen to these voices and allow them to take over, we end up hiding away what we’ve worked so hard on. If hidden well enough, people might not even know about our passion for art. It becomes a hidden compartment in our hearts that we lock away and keep to ourselves.file1761250417171

There are tons of different types of art out there, and millions and millions of other artists. Really, if we hide our passions away, hardly anyone will notice or care. After all, there are plenty of artists out there who are sharing their work, and they’re probably doing stuff similar to what you’re doing. But then, what’s the point of pouring your heart and time into your art if no one else gets to enjoy it but yourself?

When Jesus walked the earth, he was definitely unique. After all, he had the advantage of living without a sinful nature, and he showed that he was the Son of God through his teachings and his miracles. But sometimes we gloss over the fact that Jesus grew up a carpenter’s son. He spent hours and hours carving and shaping wood, often using his own creativity to make just what someone else wanted or needed. I’m sure someone in Nazareth was displeased with the bowl or table or chair that Jesus made for them. But because Jesus wasn’t afraid to share his talent with others, the whole town benefited from what he did.

What’s the worst that will happen if someone out there doesn’t like what you do? I ask that question myself when I have doubts. After all, no one’s going to run me out of town or sue me for writing a song they didn’t like. If people don’t notice or hear about what I do, I shouldn’t assume that I must be a bad artist. Whatever gifts and talents I might have are gifts from God, so why shouldn’t I open them up and use them to spread the news of God’s saving plan of salvation?

As artists, our artwork often defines who we are. Let’s not draw back into the corner, but instead use what we enjoy so much to benefit those around us.

God bless your day!

Alicia Michelle

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17, NIV).

Knocking on Walls

I just got back from an awesome Christian contemporary music camp about a week ago. The love and excitement everyone had for Christ was amazing, and the critiques and tips I got for songs I had written really got me thinking enthusiastically about other songs I could write.
One part that felt really important to me was the part of songwriting class where a student could come to the front of the room and play their song for the teachers. I couldn’t wait to go up; I wanted to get as much out of camp as I could, and I wanted an opinion on a particular song I had brought. At least, those are the reasons I focused on when I waved my hand, grabbed a guitar, and hurried up to the front of the room.

I realize now that, while some of my motivations for stepping up were well-founded and disciplined, part of me kept throwing out questions as I played and sang: I hope they like my song. I hope they notice how much symbolism I used in this song. I hope it’s so catchy they start harmonizing. I hope they like me…

Then I hit a section I was less comfortable with, and the next stream of thoughts started running through my head: What iHamster_on_Wheelf they don’t like this section? What if my voice cracks? What if that guitar chord doesn’t sound clearly, and they don’t get what I’m trying to convey? What if they forget the good parts of my song and focus on this weak part? And on and on it went, like a gerbil running around on a wheel and getting nowhere.

Finally, as I began to reach the end of the song, I somehow began to relax and enjoy myself a little. The passion suddenly came pouring out into my refrains, and I focused more on the words instead of my thoughts. Playing those last two refrains was a wonderful feeling, because I’d stopped looking for approval and started focusing on praising God.

When I was done, I did get the approval I’d hoped for. They all liked my song, and I received praise and criticism, both of which I considered carefully. But in the end, was it really worth all of that worrying? I don’t think so.

As artists, our feelings are often very closely tied with our “masterpieces.” When we write, it’s easy to focus on how others will react to hearing or seeing what we hope is the finished product. We knock on the walls of people’s minds, hoping to get some worthwhile praise for ourselves or our work. But if we put others’ opinions as the main focus instead of God’s opinions, the praise we hear from others will resonate hollow in our hearts. It really won’t be worth much of anything if we don’t ask God what he thinks first.

Now, I’m not suggesting you keep your masterpieces to yourself, afraid to get too puffed up on the words of others. It’s good to get constructive criticism and recognition for your hard work. But it’s more important to seek God’s wisdom and focus on glorifying him, not ourselves and our work.

When you need advice, knock on the walls of God’s heart first. You’ll have peace of mind when he approves what you’ve done to glorify him, and you won’t regret it.

God bless your day!

Alicia Michelle

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33, NIV).