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New Year, New You: Alter Egos and Letting Go of My Old Self

As I have talked about before, I have a major procrastination problem when it comes to making my music.

I’ll write blog posts, cook meals for the week, declutter my house, reorganize my books, unsubscribe from junk mail — anything before I work on my music projects, or even sit down to play. I made plans for my simple Shedding Skin EP months ago, and before yesterday, I’d only gotten so far as to record piano for one song.

I beat myself up for this constantly. I’m twisted in knots trying to figure it out. I know that once I sit down to make music, I get into flow. I feel purposeful and I lose track of time. Why, then, is it the easiest thing to put off? Why do I feel such a sense of “ugh” toward something I know makes me happy?

I have a new theory. You see, when I started songwriting as a teenager, it was my only emotional outlet. My motivation wasn’t to create Great Art; I thought that using music to express my True Feelings was my life’s calling. I saw myself as the Chosen One who would lead the masses into emotional honesty by first expressing my own. I released music under my given name because OF COURSE my songs would become household staples and everyone would love me. It was Destiny. Duh. (Isn’t adolescence grand?)

Thankfully, I have left most of this (or at least much of this) immature self-absorption behind me. I am constantly working on integrating the expression of emotion into my day-to-day life. I want to be my best self and reach my potential, but I’m no longer obsessed with being Special.

But every time I think of my music, I think of the old self-perception: the otherworldly crusader who took criticism and obscurity as personal failings. I released music under my own name and tied its impact or lack thereof to my identity. What if I don’t want to be that person anymore? I can’t just sit down and noodle at the piano; every time I think of my music I have to wrestle with this question.

If I could do it all over again, I’d come up with a pseudonym, so that my alter ego could have all sorts of dramatic ups and downs while Jana went on living her life. I’ve been toying with the idea of taking my old music down and re-releasing it under a new name. But even just acknowledging that my art is separate from this old identity has helped me to enjoy playing more.

If you’re stuck, remember that art is supposed to be fun. Not martyrdom.

Published in Inspiration

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