I was recently reminded of a Martha Graham quote that so perfectly summarized every feeling I was having about performing recently in a Jazz Trio. As confessed a few posts ago, I wonder why I dare enter the territory of musical performance. I wonder if I’m worthy, if I belong, I often wish I could sound like “so and so” (long list), I wonder if anyone else likes it, I wonder why more people didn’t come, I wonder why those who didn’t come didn’t say anything (though a few much-appreciated comments from some, thank you!). I wonder why I want people to come or to comment or to like what I did or complement me or urge me to keep going. In short, I am plagued by the kind of doubts that much more talented folks than me have always had and probably always will. So we need someone to remind us that it certainly isn’t about fame and fortune, it’s not about getting
"likes" on Facebook, it's not even about us feeling convinced we did a good job. It's simply about our commitment to make an effort to give voice to that inner voice that needs our determination to have it be heard, needs our commitment to “keep the channel open.” Needs our perseverance to come to peace with “queer, divine dissatisfaction, blessed unrest.”
No matter what your field, reflect on what brings you joy, what makes you feel most alive and consider if you’re paying it enough mind and if not, why not? And if you should be so brave as to make or renew a vow to commit to it, read this quote slowly, speak it out loud, translate it to two other languages, and then read it again, often. It is the only Grahamy Award you will ever need.
“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”
PS For those who want to witness a few moments when I felt my voice emerged truly (and equally note when it didn’t!), this will be up on Youtube for awhile. https://youtu.be/2NEqgJzwmqo