Nov. 2nd, 2014

There are two[2] kinds of reasons why we sing. There's singing to feed your ego, and there's singing to feed your soul.

That sounds pretty stark, doesn't it? Clear cut, black and white. But it's not, not really. There's actually nothing inherently wrong with having an ego.[3] Having too much ego can be a bad thing, but so can having too little.

Too much ego leads you to show off, to constantly try to draw attention to yourself. Too much ego breeds arrogance and a lack of consideration for others. In filk terms, too much ego leads to filkhogging. After all, if you're there, why would people want to listen to anyone else? Excessive ego, in short, can lead to everyone thinking you're an asshole. And being right.

But too little ego can leave you always sitting in the back, telling yourself you're not good enough. Too little ego leaves you convinced that nobody will like your singing, so why try? Lack of ego is what breeds "I can't", and all the reasons we come up with to support it.

Worse yet, if there's anything in you that wants to sing, all those years of "I can't" can be toxic. You can end up feeling left out, like you're not really a part of the community. You can build up resentment, wondering why no one will give you a chance. Which, I'm both sorry and sad to say, is sometimes because you never gave yourself one.

Ego in moderation works for you. Ego is a spur to effort. Ego can be why we practice. Ego leads us to hone our craft. And ego isn't just wanting others to applaud, or laugh, or cry, or tell you they loved what you did, though those all feel great. It's the satisfaction that comes when you can honestly believe that you did something well, and created something worthwhile.

But.

While feeding your ego isn't necessarily a bad reason to sing, it's not, by itself, a sufficient reason.

I'll tell you a secret that's not a secret. All those people you come to cons to hear? The ones whose CDs you buy, and videos you watch? The ones whose songs you have memorized? Ego is a part of why they work as hard as they do, and that hard work is what makes them so good. But it's not why they do what they do. Their craft may earn your respect and admiration, but their love and passion for their art is what touches your heart.

They sing to feed their souls. And so do the people in the circle with quiet, quavering voices, who don't always hit the right notes, but who still manage to make you feel something, and leave you glad they sang.

When you sing because there's something you need to say, and there's a song that says it better than any other way you know, that's singing to feed your soul, whether you wrote that song or not. When there's a song that you haven't heard in the circle in a while, and you know that it must be shared with those who haven't heard it yet, that's singing to feed your soul. When you sing just because singing makes you feel good in a way that nothing else does, that's singing to feed your soul.

When you sing because it eases your pain, or lifts your spirit, or because you can't imagine living the rest of your life not singing, you're singing to feed your soul.

And the best thing is that if you're doing that, all that other stuff doesn't matter. Hitting all the right notes? Doesn't matter. Remembering the words without reading them as you sing? Doesn't matter. Being a charismatic performer? Definitely doesn't matter. You're singing for you. You can be aware of how everyone else in the room is reacting, sure, but that reaction doesn't control you. Applause is nice. That's all it is. Deep down, you know you don't have to have it.

The glorious, joyful truth is that feeding your soul is, all by itself, more than sufficient reason to sing.

Here's the bottom line:

If you want the things that feed your ego, you have to work for them. Practice. Get better. Learn your craft. Go for it.

If, however, the only thing you want is to sing, then sing. Forget everything else, and do what you need to do.

Sing for yourself.

Sing for the pure joy of singing, and having sung.

Sing to feed your soul.

I'll be listening.



[1] I'm allowing myself a little artistic license here, using "sing" to refer to singing, instrumentals, spoken word, dance, etc. It would be more accurate to say "perform", but "sing" just flows better, y'know?

[2] Any statement that divides the world in two is almost certain to be an oversimplification. In this case, I think it's a useful oversimplification.

[3] Those who know me will be shocked, shocked to find that I would say this.[4]

[4] Yes, that's a Casablanca reference, and yes, I'm using too many footnotes. I'll stop now.

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markbernstein56

August 2017

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