Staying motivated in slow periods

One of the biggest struggles an aspiring or active performer faces is staying motivated in “fallow” periods. It happens to everyone – one minute, your schedule is totally booked for three months, and then you wake up one day to blank pages. Sometimes these rest periods are by choice (to give yourself a vacation or to prepare for an upcoming audition or gig), and sometimes they occur simply because you don’t have anything to prepare for on the horizon.

Following a busy period or a particularly climactic performance, it’s easy to feel that familiar sense of let down or even depression. Try to actively relax for a few days – watch movies or TV you’ve been wanting to get to, finally finish a book that’s been on your bedside table for weeks, take an exercise class, or indulge in the coloring book trend. Meanwhile, take the time to brainstorm what goals you’d like to work on next, or what maybe got shoved to the side while you were so busy. Re-prioritize your goals so that you have a refreshed outlook as you move into a time of slowness.

These times are ideal for getting done the things that you wouldn’t have time to do when you’re in a production: updating your PR materials (website, blog, CV, headshots, recordings, etc.), studying a language, learning a full role that you’d like to sing in the near future, creating a recital program, taking acting classes, popping in for some voice lessons or coaching sessions, etc. Focusing on these VERY productive tasks will engage you in the future of your career, rather than making you feel stuck in a rut or slow period. And you’ll find that out of nowhere, little performance opportunities may emerge and you’ll feel empowered to say “no” to them so you can focus on what you’re doing for you, or say “yes” because they’ll work in tandem with your existing goals.

Staying motivated by constantly assessing and reassessing your goals and what you’re doing on a daily basis to achieve them sounds difficult, but like anything else, it’s a habit. When you’re about to wrap up a busy period of performing, go ahead and see what the next few months hold – imagine an ideal vacation or way of relaxing and what you’d do if you had hours of time on your hands. The ebb and flow of the performing life is one of its greatest challenges but can also be its greatest gift. These times are a chance to hit pause, reassess, and refocus on what you need to get done to make your singing career work for you. This is all that stuff below the surface that goes into making your next performance dazzle!Success-is-like-an-iceberg

Reboot part 2

Last time, I revisited a blog post I wrote about four years ago. Here is part 2 of that post, focusing on how to practice. Mostly, this is about the practical side of practicing – I am the queen of coming up with excuses, but I find those very things I somehow resisted doing for many years, are the most worth pursuing. I still work on my fear of success everyday, and establishing patterns and a physical environment that supports your desire to practice go a long way in overcoming fear.

Here’s that original post, part 2:

Part 2

As I mentioned in the teaser to Part 2, you should make every attempt relieve yourself of the burden of expectations when it comes to practicing.  It’s true that practicing is meant to engage and improve your skill set, and that without doing some daily practice, you probably won’t achieve your goals.  But why expect every day to be filled with some amazing technical revelation or new insight? Have reasonable goals for yourself each day.  If you know that Mondays are really busy, try to spend 10-15 minutes in the morning speaking through your text, or something equally simple.  If you have time to sing through it later on Monday, well, great! But if not, then at least you’ve already accomplished some small bit of work on your piece.  Baby steps will help your overall progress and also make you feel better about getting something done (no matter how small) each day. 

Practicing comes in many forms, especially for singers.  You can simply speak through your lyrics or text, and that’s practicing.  You can then speak it in rhythm.  Listening to other examples (on YouTube, Spotify, or Classical Archives, for example) of your piece also counts!  Reviewing several other performances of your piece will exercise your ears, and give you plenty of ideas of how to interpret a song or aria.  You can also just do some of your warm ups or vocalises.  Spending one practice session concentrating solely on technique will help you get to know your own voice.  This sounds obvious, but sometimes when you strip away text, melodies, or composers’ rhythms, your voice will reveal itself in a totally different way.

Learning to practice well takes time, thought, realism, and above all, persistence.  Stick with it!