Feedback Loop

I thrive on feedback. I'm sure many others are the same, it's a large part of what makes being a composer so rewarding. That thrilling feeling when you have finished a strenuous project for someone to have that person happy at the other end telling you that they love what you've done. Or even just hearing a confirmation that you're on the right track - it buoys your progress, a signpost pointing you in the right direction. Take away the feedback and I find my headspace changes dramatically - suddenly I'm not so sure about decisions I have made, my brain says stuff like "they've had the files for 3 days and they haven't replied, they hate it and they don't know how to tell you"... when the creation that I thought was beautiful and full of promise is met with silence my ego cracks and crumbles like eggshell. Feeling needy and a bit pathetic, I might then scrap around for any kind of small validation: dig out some old reviews, listen to some of my best older work, ask my boyfriend "do you think I'm good enough to do this?". Ugh. The grey muck of withering self-belief mixed with self-loathing.

It's not that I want people to tell me I'm great all the time, don't get me wrong. It's just that working in a vacuum can breed some serious insecurity. I was speaking to a colleague about this earlier today and he told me the story of his friend who was such a perfectionist that he would never show his creative work to anyone - so wary of people's judgements made on his unfinished work - and he never finished anything. I can relate to that logic a little bit, but in my context those ideas throw a slightly more existential curve: just like the tree falling in the forest when no-one's around, am I still a composer if no-one ever hears the stuff I write?

It's all a bit sad to admit, really. The romantic ideal composer version of me would not be bothered so much. She would be sure of the quality of her own ideas and sod the rest. Everything she wrote would be formed with a clarity of purpose; it would say exactly what she intended it to say and it wouldn't matter so much what people think because she would have prioritised her own artistic satisfaction above all else. If only I was that confident; if only I was so convinced what I was doing wasn't rubbish... but the subjectivity of my experience leads me to question myself all too often. A few times I have been caught up in a project that at the time I thought had potential to be great, but with a bit of hindsight could clearly see was flawed and weak. A horrible feeling.

But despite appearances, I am not writing this to moan or complain. I'm writing this to help myself get a grip and stop being such a wuss. Dealing with feedback and handling criticism is obviously a big part of the job description and I should use this opportunity to get my priorities straight. Am I writing music to make people like me? Is it just about the money and commercial projects? Am I doing it solely to please and impress a client or commissioner?... or do I actually want to say something that reflects my own feelings and perspectives on shit? Honestly, I want it to be the latter more than anything else.

It may not look like it, judging by the action on this blog/site, but for the last 4 to 5 months I have been working my little bum off: a feature length film score that, when delivered, felt like 40 lbs of my own flesh (I enjoyed it immensely don't get me wrong, but maaan that was a lot of music). In addition, and after almost a year of faffing about, I finished and delivered demos and scores of the string quartet to the players. I also drafted a suite of 3 lyric pieces for saxophone trio, scored and sent. So far I've not heard anything from anyone about any of it - for various understandable and good reasons (people moving house, people becoming seriously ill, assorted technical dramas, etc), but still... nothing.

And I'm doing ok, I think. Im learning to trust my own good taste. It's a work in progress.