Music and embarrassment

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By: Kristin Helf, Columnist 

When it comes to any creative field—music, writing, art, typography, or interpretive dance—you can’t be afraid of embarrassing yourself.

I’ve been telling myself this for years, but it’s only now that it’s started to permeate my subconscious. Meaning only now, by my junior year of college, do I submit the things I write without any unnecessary doubt.

I don’t go back and read articles or stories or essays I’ve written with a persistent blush, yelling at myself internally, “what was I thinking/this is garbage/oh my god, I am the worst!”

This is something that everyone has faced at some point, except maybe a minority of those born with some crazy, innate self-confidence that can’t be deterred (I’m totally jealous of these people, if they exist).

The needs to question, doubt and hesitate when putting your work out into the world is especially common in musicians and songwriters. An interview I did on Wednesday with Ben Graham and Adam Aymor of the band Cheap Girls only reassured me that when it comes to things you’ve created, even if they are as bad as you imagine them to be, the only healthy way to react is by laughing and moving on and then doing better in the future.

I think a lot of artists are hesitant to enter into a field they’re passionate about because they’re afraid of embarrassing themselves. But—bear with me with this cliché—practice does make perfect. Or maybe not perfect, but pretty damn good. It’s a fact that you’re going to make something shitty before you make something spectacular. It’s a part of life.

Back when I was in high school, I often explored the depths of YouTube searching for any obscure interview or clip of whatever band I was enthralled with at the time.

One day I discovered a video that a favorite band of mine had made when they were in high school. Strumming an off-key guitar and singing about—without any irony—drinking Natty Boh and “hit[ting] up the bong every day.” This band I loved, whose lyrics about heartbreak and angst and regret were just so impossibly beautiful to me, could attribute their humble beginnings to songs about drinking beer and smoking weed.

Maybe the embarrassing things you make will end up on the internet, and maybe they won’t, but hopefully they can make you smile years from now anyway.

And once you’re really good at whatever it is you do, some obsessed high school fan of yours will probably find it and nearly pee herself from laughing so hard. And she’ll still love whatever it is that you do.   

(The full Cheap Girls interview is on my blog, kristinhelf.tumblr.com)

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