4. Stay in the game/be patient

I’ve been at this now for two full years. In late fall of 2006, I started writing songs with my friend Socrates Cruz. In January and February of 2007 we made the first terrible, awful, totally scratch recordings of some of those songs in Soc’s bedroom in Harlem with what he playfully called a “Mexican microphone” (he’s Mexican-American, so shut up), which was an old performance mic duct-taped to the long handle of a stand-up dustpan, which was perched on a rolling office swivel chair. Needless to say, those recordings didn’t come out too well. We didn’t spend any time on the production, and my voice just was absolutely not as strong as it is now. Plus, since the songs were new, I hadn’t had the time or opportunity to perform them and let them grow into what they needed to be. And I didn’t have a home studio or any production skills to fill out their arrangements. Anyway, in February of that year I appeared on an internet radio show which I booked myself on through Backstage magazine, where I met the sound engineer who became my sometime collaborator and the co-writer and producer of my songs “Lover” and “Lost/Found.” I was really excited about what we came up with together, but soon after we started working together he took a really serious job and was no longer able to devote any time to working with me. So I realized, if I wanted to get anything done in a reasonable amount of time, I was going to have to start being able to do things for myself. I started a full time day job (which I still have), which allowed me to save up enough money to buy an iMac that September. Over the next few months, I cobbled together the rest of the elements of my home studio and began to teach myself how to use it. I also researched how to get my music on iTunes and other digital retailers, and put the three finished songs I had together to form “The Lover EP,” which I put up for sale. In September and December I filmed my first music video for “Lover,” and put it on YouTube. In the beginning of 2008 I started teaching myself how to use the programs Reason and Garage Band to record and produce my music, and beginning in April, I finally started working on the recordings of the songs I had written a year before. It took me four months of daily work to fill out the arrangements on 11 of the songs on my first album (the other two had been on The Lover EP), and the full album went live on iTunes in September of 2008. In the spring of 2008 I bought a guitar, and in the summer I started taking lessons. By June 2008 I was able to write songs on the guitar by myself, and I wrote “Texas Boys” and “You Don’t Have To Worry.” Over the next few months I focused on finishing my album and practicing guitar. In October 2008 I got out to a couple of open mics, and now, in January, I’ve made a more serious commitment to that and have been doing it a lot more.

So, in two years, I’ve gone from being just a singer/songwriter who was totally dependent on others to being a virtually independent singer/songwriter, who can design her own website, write songs alone, perform them alone, make music videos, self-promote, have worldwide distribution, and on and on. I made a complete album and released it. I put together a live band and have started scheduling shows and will be performing regularly. I’ve gotten my music accepted by two music licensing companies. Now that I have all that under my belt, I can finally get out and really start pushing and promoting my music. It took me a while to realize what I needed to do to accomplish my goals, but now that I know what I need to know, there’s no stopping me.

So what’s my point? My point is that it takes a really long time to get where you want to go. I feel like I’ve been waiting forever to make this my full-time career, but really it only became my main pursuit two years ago, and I had to learn everything from scratch while keeping a full time job and maintaining friendships, a social life, and my health. They say that you become an expert at something after 10,000 hours of practice, which breaks down to four hours a day for about 7 years. So clearly I haven’t even put in half of my time yet.

So always remember, when you’re pursuing your dreams: be patient. And when you get impatient, get patient again. Because it takes a long time. But the longer you stay in the game, the more you’ll learn, the more people you’ll know, and the more competitors you’ll outlast, and eventually, you’ll be the last one standing, with the most knowledge and the most connections, and you’ll be in the position to do what you want. Opportunities don’t all come quickly, and they don’t all come at once. You’ve got to stay in the game so that when someone thinks of you for a project, not only are you still in the right line of work, but you’ve been in the right line of work for a long time, and you’ve built up your expertise and desirability as a player. Don’t quit before the game’s over. Stay long enough to be the MVP.

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