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Having to Write More

On the fear of scarcity and the deceptive power of limitations...

Immediately after I launched The Scale last week, I started worrying. I worry a lot; this is not a new feeling. I had dramatic worries over social rejection or disregard (hard to say which would have felt worse), but my main worry was one of the things that held me back from starting this project in the first place: I worried about having to write more.

As I said in my first entry, obsessing over every detail of my writing was keeping me from sharing it. I spoke with a friend at the end of last week and told her the next thing I needed to write was something to set expectations. I'd write something along the lines of, thanks for reading but don't expect me to post often.

Thinking of that, I want to pick apart a couple of things. First, I think we expect artists who put their work on the internet to produce a lot of it, and regularly (we also call it content, which I find pale and cold and gross). The consequence of not doing so may be an inability to build or maintain an audience. I have felt the pressure of this idea thinking about writing a blog, sharing clips of my singing, or even posting new head shots. I think this is an obstructive position from which to begin anything, but I'm sure I will speak more on that across future entries. The other, more significant thing I want to unpack right now, which I hold in tension with that first idea, is that my resistance to posting on a regular schedule is informed by a fear I will run out of things to say.

As a singer, I'm used to the fear of running out. For one thing, there's only a certain amount I can feasibly sing each day. That, of course, has shifted over time as I've built stamina, but I always have to listen to my body and perform within the context of my technique. I also know I may not be able to sing for the rest of my life at the level I can now; a sense of racing against the clock hangs over much of my growth. Moreover, within a context of fierce competition as a result of scant opportunities, I have often felt the fear that each opera, each concert, each program may be the last major thing I do.

It has become important for me to separate the act of singing from my creativity itself. Singing is a physical process and a deeply intimate one, but the creative impulse is greater. Singing only facilitates its release. This has been an important learning for me. Without it, I may wrongfully equate the limitations around my singing with an insufficiency in my creative ability overall. With it, I'm able to recognize that my creativity exists beyond the boundaries of my music-making as an infinite resource that may — and will — find many other outlets.

When it comes to creativity, limitations and scarcity are not the same thing. Scarcity is the idea that we don't have enough of something. Limits, on the other hand, can be tested and challenged. They can even be used to our advantage, if we are patient and attentive enough. As I've found over the past year by writing incessantly in the absence of performance opportunities, limitations can point us in different directions, toward unexpected, promising new avenues of creative fulfillment.

I trot all this out to underscore that writing — in particular, this blog — is also only one avenue. I know better than to fear that my creativity will burn out, but admittedly I'm quick to preach that message to others and reluctant to apply it to myself. Writing has its own limitations. Vocabulary, for instance. There's also only so much time in the day: I have a full time job, errands to run, taxes to file, friendships and family relationships to maintain. These limitations, not unlike those physically placed on my singing, can easily make me jump to the conclusion that there is cap on what I have to express. But that's simply not true.

I do not want to hold myself to uncompromising schedules of content production (ew), but I do want to challenge myself and honor the fact that right now writing this little old blog feels like a supportive, authentic medium for my creativity. As frightened as I've been to do it, I think sharing my writing on a regular basis can help me shoo the fear away. There is no limit to our capacity for expression. It's only the form expression finds that can change from moment to moment, from year to year. So when we find an avenue, I think it's best to follow it.

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