The Untamed Musician - What Glennon Doyle Taught Me
When the COVID-19 quarantine started taking place, my full, daily schedule suddenly became a lot lighter. My initial panic that read, “HOLY CRAP HOW WILL I PAY MY BILLS?!” ended up turning to, “Holy crap, why didn’t I take advantage of this sooner?” Meaning, I had more time for MYSELF more than ever, and I intended on using it.
One of my goals was to start reading again as a daily habit.
I used to be a reading MACHINE. My early memories in elementary/middle school were frequent Sunday visits to the library, checking out 10 books and reading them all within a week. I was quite the book worm at home, in the car, in the middle of church sermons, family gatherings, study hall, lunch, afterschool, at the neighborhood pool during adult swim, You. Freaking. Name. It. Then one magical day, I discovered AIM, and my reading went down hill from there.
Years later, I made another great habit after my boyfriend and I broke up, by consoling myself into the world of Harry Potter. Once I moved to Denver that summer for grad school, my priorities changed, and the reading habits died.
When I came across Untamed, it was via Instagram from a wonderful human by the name of Claire Howard. (SIDE NOTE: If you have not checked out her PracticeRoomYoga channel then you are missing out my friend!) Claire posted about the book one day, and it seemed to be a big hit across the Insta-music community. I must confess, after looking at the cover I initially thought, “Everyone seems to like this book. The cover looks super colorful and trendy, so this MUST be good!” Then with a simple click, I bought it.
I read a little bit at first and quickly ended up losing focus to my horrible habit of playing Solitaire & discovering the reruns of America’s Next Top Model on Amazon Prime. (I cannot resist the guidance on how to walk from the one and ONLY Miss J Alexander.)
I ended up in a slum, wondering why I always fell to the same habit of binge-watching reality tv and diving into my go-to gaming apps. Then I remembered a little piece of advice from Chelsea Tanner in Nicole Riccardo’s Musician Summit a few months before, “Just imagine how much information you can obtain from reading 10 pages a day?”
So, I did just that.
What first became 10 pages, became 20, then 30 and before I knew it, I made it to the end of the book. Looking back at the book itself, I made creases in pages that made a significance from my reading experience, and I thought, “Why did these pages stick out?”
Reading back at those specific pages, I took note of 3 key thoughts from Glennon’s book that really resonated about myself, my relationships with others, & viewing life inside & out of the practice room.
1. MAKE THE MISTAKES
“…humanity & pain: Don’t avoid it. You need to evolve, to become. And you are here to become.”
“Pain is not tragic. Pain is magic. Suffering is tragic. Suffering is what happens when we avoid pain and consequently miss our becoming.”
-Untamed pages 51 & 52
In the practice room, my pain are the flaws that come out in my playing. For example:
· Cracking a note.
· Ending my phrases out of tune & out of breath.
· Getting jumbled up with ALL THE NOTES in an etude that challenges my technical abilities.
Hearing these flaws can bring me into a negative mindset, and I’ll start to question myself, asking “Crap, if I can’t get this now, will I ever get it? Maybe I’ll never be successful to perform in the music world.”
When I read this specific section in Glennon’s book, I took it as: my pain = my flaws.
To overcome my flaws, I must embrace them and work through them for me to really GROW as a musician.
If I were the most “perfect” flutist out there (and let us be real, NOBODY is), I would have no story to share that could relate to musicians who do struggle. I would have no goals where I can work and improve on for my better self.
I perceived Glennon’s definition of “magic” as the journey it takes to achieve a certain goal, whether it’s BIG goal by scoring an audition or small by not cracking that high F# in the infamous Brahms Symphony 4 excerpt.
The mistakes are magic: embrace them & let them evolve.
2. EXPRESS YOUR IMAGINATION
“...instead of asking ourselves what’s right or wrong, we must ask ourselves: ‘What is true and beautiful?’”
-Untamed page 68
When I have done a run-through of a piece, excerpt or practically ANYTHING in front of my camera (or someone else), my initial goal is for it to sound like the music came from “me”. Unfortunately, I have been too caught up in fear of making mistakes and try to sound like the various recordings I studied beforehand. What was first my goal of creating a personal expression, ends up becoming too technical, and my flute voice tries to be something it is not.
Lately in my practice, I have been envisioning my etudes, sonata’s, and a few excerpts with a specific story/character. For some pieces it is easy, and for others it is a little harder to identify. There is no right or wrong imagery when it comes to this, in fact, if everyone thought the SAME way, wouldn’t music be a little boring?
As musicians, we are creative thinkers, but sometimes I feel like I have lost my creativity during the process in elevating my skill set. My focus that says, “Make less mistakes.” when I am in practice and performance mode, brings out more (or the same) number of mistakes, and I feel way too frustrated in the end.
Activating an image, a color, emotion, memory or creating a story allows me to create the expression I aimed for from the very beginning.
When my flute students are learning a piece or working on a tough exercise, I usually ask them to write on the top of the page a word or phrase that it reminds them of. I tell them afterwards to evoke that word in the music. Even though I see completely different answers in the same exercise, I hear a completely different interpretation of music rather than a robotic and repetitive pattern from before.
SIDE NOTE: I challenge my teacher friends to give this a try in their lessons if they have not done so yet. See what comes out from it!
3. BUILDING CONFIDENCE
“If you keep living with confidence, the rest of your life will unfold exactly as it is meant to. It will not always be comfortable. Some will recognize your brave; others will not. Some will understand and like you; others will not. But the way others respond to your confidence is not your business. Your business is to stay loyal to you.”
-Untamed page 106
This is one quote I can say is relatable even outside of the practice room.
Today, I identify myself as a balance between introvert AND extrovert, but me 5-10 years ago was completely introverted. I remember even in high school, people called me the “quiet, band girl”, and I was made fun of for little things like my style of clothing (aka. wearing cute printed tank tops over basic colored shirts), hanging out with people who did not care about the trendiest things & were legitimate nice people, and for saying the sloth was my favorite animal.
I was a push over, putting myself in friendships that ended up becoming toxic. I would constantly ask myself why I was associating with people who made me feel less of myself (like when they were surprised I had a 4.0 even though I was “stupid”), stopped talking to me when we completed school and pretended they never saw me at a Caribou Coffee (based on a true story), AND would criticize my focus on school and work because my goal was to IMPROVE (like being prepared for my next wind ensemble rehearsal, pass the next aural skills exam AND actually be able pay rent for the next month.)
The introvert in me really overcame me in music school. My beginning days as a freshman tore me apart whenever our conductor called out the flute section to play a specific measure in rehearsal, and I wouldn’t have it down because I was legit terrified of making a mistake…which I totally made. I didn’t make the greatest impression of being the most “fantastic freshman flutist out there” because I wasn’t sure if music my legit career path at the time (more about that in THIS blog post from last fall!) The negative looks and side comments from my colleagues just made me feel like shit, and I felt that my voice, image, and personal self were slowly disappearing to complete invisibility.
I just remember thinking the same thought, “Dammit Catherine, if you keep this up, you will not succeed. You will feel even MORE miserable than ever. What is point in life if you don’t take risks or speak up for yourself?”
This is an ongoing process that I have developed over time. I have learned to be a little more outspoken publicly. (Especially within this last month on social media, talking about issues that I have been silent for way too long on.) I have taken more of a risk in speaking up for myself. (Like that one time at my coffee shop job, when called out a certain coworker for eating all the food, not paying for it, and sitting on their ass all shift with phone in hand.) I have put myself out there after graduating from my masters by taking on jobs I thought would lead me somewhere. Some of those opportunities were not so awesome and lasted a few months, BUT others ended up giving me more connections that helped me elevate my flute career.
Confidence is not born for everyone; it is built. I built my confidence from past experiences where I told myself, “Never again.” I do not regret any of those experiences because I would have never learned in the process, and I truly value what I believe in now. Being true to myself (and not hiding it) has given me WAY MORE confidence, and I feel happier than ever.
If this blog resonates with you, I suggested ordering your own copy of Glennon Doyle’s, Untamed today by clicking HERE. I promise you won't regret it!
Lastly, I want to thank Glennon for speaking her truth & sharing it to the world. She sparked that inspiration in me to do it myself, whether it is speaking about it on my blog, sharing it on a social media post, or talking about it in person with others.
Reading has opened my mind in creating new ideas in and out of the practice room. I am excited to dive in & hear more voices that are out there and share my perspective out to the world.
Stay tuned folks!