When I was a kid, and first started writing songs, I used to imagine how wild it would be to create a song that *other* people would want to sing too. The idea of listeners acknowledging, appreciating, and relating to something I had created got me so excited.
I have this memory of sitting in my friend’s garage with my $40 pawn shop guitar, trying to play a few chords. I had only been playing for a month or so and I was having trouble switching smoothly between the three chords that I knew. As I fumbled through the chord changes, I said, “One day I’m going to be good at guitar”. As a friend from the neighborhood was leaving the garage, I heard him say, “yeah right” under his breath. Although I know he didn’t mean for me to hear, those two words flattened me.
Putting yourself out there for the world to hear (or see, or read, etc) can be a scary thing. Especially for someone like me who is an extreme introvert, avoids conflict at all costs, and wears my feelings on my sleeve.
I truly thought about giving up on music that night.
Maybe he was right. Maybe I would always suck at the guitar. Maybe I didn’t want to get into something that was going to leave me wide open to criticism every time I shared a new idea, sound or song.
My friend Mike Beddingfield talked me out of giving up that night though, and looking back, he probably changed the entire course of my life that night by giving me the encouragement to push through and be brave.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly” – Theodore Roosevelt
When you care deeply about something it hurts to hear that it’s not good (or you’re not good). My skin has gotten much thicker over the years. At this point, my singing voice has been criticized hundreds of times in YouTube comments, on Facebook, in album reviews, and even directly to my face. It took a long time to get to the point where it didn’t hurt anymore.
Everything started to change for me one night in California while watching some bands play with my friend, Danny. As we were watching one of the bands, a guy next to us was ripping them to shreds. He was going on and on about how bad they were, how they weren’t heavy enough, how the singer was terrible. No wonder we’re afraid to let the world hear our music, poetry, art, or singing voices!
As we were watching, Danny leaned over to me and said that he believed that anyone who has the courage to walk on stage and give it their best shot deserves our respect. He said that if you haven’t put yourself out there to be judged, then you haven’t earned the right to judge others that are trying. His opinion carried a lot of weight with me because he was the bass player for the band NIN. He was good friends with our A&R guy, Eric Hunter, and if anyone had earned the right to criticize a band, it was him. But he did the complete opposite. He respected everyone trying. He later appeared in our video for Downfall and was a big influence on me in that first year after our debut record came out.
(Danny Lohner in the Downfall video)
We live in a world where everyone has an opinion, and some people really feel the need to voice that opinion, even if it means tearing someone else down.
The truth is- opinions don’t matter.
Somewhere in my journey, I stopped believing that what people were saying about me (or our band) was true, and came to realize that what we were creating as a band wasn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. I started to believe that what we were doing was special because it was *our* story, and if didn’t resonate with someone, it simply was not meant for them.
We all have the ability in us to create something special. It won’t be for everyone, but when you find your tribe, the connection can be powerful. You have the power to affect others in a positive way. My hope in writing this is to give you encouragement to put yourself out there. To feel the fear of rejection and press on anyway. To create something special. No one has ever done anything that mattered without being criticized by someone. Find confidence in knowing that most people don’t have the courage to open themselves up to the world and allow themselves to be a target.
I truly believe that there is someone in the world that needs to hear your unique voice. Don’t let criticism or the fear of rejection stop you from creating. Push through…be brave.
PS: I hope you have a very Merry Christmas!