• Charles

A ravenous flock of ideas ate all my green shoots


As a musician, it's often best to have several strings in your hat and a flock of feathers in your bow to make a successful career. But, actually, whether you are a freelancer or tethered to a timetable not of your own making, any ability you have that could be of value to other people could be worth investing in.

I have always seen this as a good thing. When you're in the midst of several projects, it's often easier to compartmentalise them in your mind than you might imagine. In practise, this is especially true if most of the projects aren't 'yours', as such. One of the most important uses of my time has always been keeping a journal, which serves to contain everything I've learnt in each project, so that I can then apply it to the others.

And so, over time, my comprehension, imagination and the limits of my capabilities are gently pushed further outwards. If nothing else, I can convince myself that I am making progress. Increasing the breadth of abilities that I can make a living out of also averts some of the risk of being a freelancer. For example, I have also ended up, only half-unintentionally, doing more and more work in writing blogs and articles and sales copy.

This is all very wonderful, but it does mean that things were getting a little bit hectic. And then I wasn't very well for a few weeks at the end of the summer, and I elected not to take on anything new. In fact, even after I got better, I still avoided accepting any major undertakings. As the diary began to clear, so did my mind. And I cannot possibly overstate how insightful this turned out to be...

Up until recently, I've had at least six different projects on the go at any one time. Sometimes up to a dozen. I have so many of my own ambitions, and I find it awfully difficult to say 'no' to people's requests. But a couple of months ago, for the first time, I said, "Right, that's it chaps: I'm not taking on any bookings for a while". Or something very like it.

Slowly, the diary started to empty as I stopped booking up my days with meetings and my evenings with gigs. With so little to 'do', I could focus on looking at everything I actually wanted to achieve. I wrote down the title of each of my projects onto separate sheets of A5, and listed everything I would need to do to accomplish each one. I then put the sheets in order of how they would naturally follow on from each other.

This was nothing short of revelatory. I didn't have to try to work towards all of my career goals, and all of my clients', at once. I manage my clients' work so that I focus on just one project at a time. So why on earth don't I do the same for mine, too?

Well, it's becuse I had always followed the advice that doing a little bit on every project every week is the way forward. This undoubtedly made noticable progress -- but it was incremental, frankly. I mean, the reason that I managed to pull two shows together, the second one almost entirely by myself, was that I did little else in the run-up to them. Once I'd made the commitment -- which is to say, closed my eyes and handed over the non-refundable deposit on the venue -- I had to make a success of it.

And now I'm going to do that again. And again. One project at a time, in between commissions. And, who knows, I might even finish one of my own!

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