In these weeks of self-isolation, some of you may have already exhausted your Netflix account, been desperate enough to pull out the slide projector, and are now alone with your thoughts that are meandering through the mysteries of life such as “How different is life for a freelance composer during the COVID-19 pandemic?” Truthfully – not very. Yes, some concerts have very sadly, but understandably, been postponed, but otherwise my day-to-day life is still very in keeping with
regular freelance life.
My days are filled with writing music, inputting scores, practicing guitar, and attempting to calm the underlying terror of where my next commission or grant is going to come from. The truth of the matter is that I have been in a constant state of worry this month – and not because of COVID-19. In the arts’ world we apply for grants with the hope that we will get them but with the knowledge that we most likely will not. I still block out time in my schedule for my hopeful projects so that I can work on them if the funding goes through. Unfortunately for me, the funding for a big project that was to finish up this May did not come through. We were close! But the reality is that there are so many amazing artists in Canada and there is not enough funding to go around to everyone. So yea, I’m looking for some paid composition work. And yes, I am scared. Terrified
The nice thing about the timeline of COVID-19 occurring at the same time of my existential crisis is all the hope and positivity I’ve been seeing people spread. We are all uncertain right now but we keep spurring each other on! I’ve seen lots of artists challenge one another to pick up the mantel and come up with creative solutions to find income and spread art. How wonderful is that! The great thing about is hope is that is spreads fast – like COVID-19! (too soon?) So hope returned to me and I have clawed out of despair. It also helps that I have amazing supports and friends. My fellow composer Kirsten Ewart give me some suggestions on finding commissions (thanks Kirsten!)
As a composer I am never short on project ideas. So I am reaching out to fellow artists and making some headway on applying for grants for some collaborative work. I’m also finding new bravery within myself! I’ve recently reached out to a group of people about a potential commission – never would I have thought that I was brave enough to do something like that! But it turns out that I am. It also turns out that I am brave enough to cut my own hair (not COVID related; this is entirely an “I’m a freelance composer and can’t afford a haircut” sort of response).
Yesterday I was rereading Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck,” and this one passage really hit home and helped me understand myself a little better.
“It’s the backwards law again: the more you try to be certain about something, the more uncertain and insecure you will feel… the more you embrace being uncertain and not knowing, the more comfortable you will feel in knowing what you don’t know.” (Manson, Mark. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. FirstHarper One, 2016. 128-9)
As a perfectionist, I find that I have to know how things are going to work out. I have to know when groceries are being bought. I have to know how the note will be played. I have to know where my next paycheque is coming from. You get it. Sometimes I can’t rest until I feel certain – which is, actually, impossible.
A few weeks ago I ran into a former professor, Dean McNeill, at the symphony. He was so encouraging about my entry into freelancedom, and he offered some sage wisdom. Most jobs have a linear income – you do ‘x’ job and will get ‘x’ amount of money on these pre-prescribed days. The artists’ life is not that and we need learn to be alright with that.
Now that I am embracing my situation, I am so much calmer. I now feel free to continue pushing on. I’m feeling braver; I’m feeling hopeful. This will work out – I will make it as a composer. The final quote I loved from Manson’s book was this:
“Uncertainty is the root of all progress and growth.” (Ibid)
Yes. Yes it is.