The other day, I posted to Polkadelphia’s Facebook page:
It was a kind of tongue in cheek way for me to both take pride in what I had accomplished over the previous month, as well as express some anxiety about the holes in my working schedule.
October was a very good month for me. Polkadelphia was playing at least once a week, often much more. While 2 or 3 shows per week for a polka band during Oktoberfest season seems a little low, I’m really proud of how much we accomplished as a band that hasn’t been around a whole lot. I also had great gigs with 5 other groups across the month some of which were bands I had never played with before. I got to play accordion in the West Philadelphia Orchestra, giving me the opportunity to expand my role in the group and learn new repertoire on that instrument. I also got to write new songs as Neon and Shy and perform in one of my favorite venues (shoutout to the Zen Den).
Last month I got to amp up my business acumen as well. Booking Polkadelphia repeatedly taught me some new skills for finding work and negotiating. I actually began to look forward to calling clients, instead of cringing any time the phone rang. I had the opportunity to teach sousaphone lessons to a colleague, jumping back into the teaching world. I was hired to build a new website for a client, and I got a few graphic design projects thrown my way as well. And of course I got the brilliant idea for Novemberfest which, while not a full-fledged idea yet, has great potential for the future.
In October, I managed to meet my financial goals, meaning I earned enough to pay my monthly expenses. This is an accomplishment of which I am especially proud, as it gives me the confidence and reassurance to continue working hard to make music my primary source of income. It’s yet another reason I pine for Novemberfest, since I know running a polka band during Oktoberfest contributed greatly to my financial security for the month.
That last sentence there is the insecurity in me talking, and it has been nagging quite a bit lately. The real trigger for it was the end of October, when I got my car inspected and found I needed major repairs. The bill made a massive dent in the earnings I had worked so hard for, and I started second guessing myself. Talking with a few other freelancers who assured me this sort of thing is always happening has made it a bit easier, but I still feel like I’m not accomplishing enough.
It’s an odd pattern. There’s a very small sweet spot between when I start a project (book a show, write a song, arrange a new piece for a band) and see it to fruition (play the booked show, perform the written song, showcase the new arrangement) in which I’m feeling like all is well in the world and I’m being productive. After that, it’s easy to start to panic that I’m not doing enough. While it’s important to have a strong work ethic, it’s far too easy to be, as David Bowie says in Rock ‘n Roll Suicide, “religiously unkind” to myself.*
Looking back over October, I can see why I might feel this way. I’m still finding ways to be physically comfortable after my back injuries. It’s cutting into my productivity, as one of the few places where it doesn’t hurt to work for over an hour is in bed (where I’m currently typing this). And as business-like as my bed is, there’s no escaping the fact that I go there every night to rest. Also, as I learned in 9th grade, you can’t really practice the tuba (or any other instrument) in bed. It just doesn’t work.
I’m also a little gun shy about performing too much. It’s hard to feel the correlation between the pain I feel and the performances, so I don’t always know what specifically to stop doing. While performing is sometimes about landing those big lucrative gigs, I am finding that it’s also about just getting out and being present. So I’m trying to do that without overdoing it. As a whole, I’m trying to continue my experiments in productivity without damaging the future of my productivity.
So I’ll continue to find new approaches, develop new ideas, and create new opportunities. Now that I’ve seen it happen for one month, I know financial solubility can be a reality. I’ll keep on pushing through the thin veneer of terror and impossibility that can cling like a film to see what’s on the other side. Onward to Novemberfest, Decemberfest, and beyond!
I’ve been really loving this song lately. While it’s ostensibly part of the Ziggy Stardust story at a point in which he is washed up and depressed, I find it a timeless inspiration. We as creators feel that timeless drag towards self-destruction, the clock ticking away our time left to say something, anything, and the solitary confinement of the path less traveled. And in one soaring ride, David Bowie offers consolation and respite. It’s really such a gorgeous journey.