This is the second in a series of guest post essays by New York City-based indie pop singer, Kat Quinn.
You may recognize Kat Quinn from Late Night With Jimmy Fallon where she was pulled from the audience to join the “Battle of The Instant Songwriters.” Given a song title and less than an hour to write it, Quinn performed her original, “Clouds Are People Too,” live on Late Night, gaining fans nationwide.
After moving to New York in the summer of 2011, Quinn teamed up with Peter Calo (Carly Simon) to record her debut EP, Exhale. Quickly gaining momentum, Adam Rhodes (Bon Iver) came on board to produce the follow up record, Kind of Brave, released in December of 2013.
Please sit back and enjoy…. Giving Urgency To The Important by Kat Quinn:
How do we give validity to our creative endeavors?
Sometimes things are important. Sometimes they are urgent. Sometimes they are both. But often times they are not.
Urgent means pressing. That someone has requested you complete a task and therefore, it is a priority. Important means it has significance to you. No one has necessarily asked you to do this work, but you believe it is a valuable use of your time. Why do we (greater society) give validity to urgency? If there isn’t a boss or a deadline involved, many people will consider your project to be a poor use of time. This leads to one of the greatest challenges of the creative life: getting your work done.
If someone asks you to go to lunch, and you say you can’t because you have to turn in an assignment by five o’clock, they get it. But if you say you can’t go to lunch because you have to write a poem, they don’t get it. Even though the poem is probably much more important to you than whatever stupid project you’re supposed to turn in by five.
Several years ago, I spent a month living with a graduate student in Nashville. She spent all her time in class, doing fieldwork, or studying (valid). I spent all my time writing and practicing music (not valid). One day when my incredibly busy and important roommate came home, she asked me what I had done that day. I told her I had spent the day working on songs for The University of Notre Dame, my alma mater. They were putting together a CD of Notre Dame songs and were taking submissions from alumni. No one had asked me to write a song. No one was waiting for it, but I had spent the day writing anyway. Her response was to laugh and say “You writers are so funny.”
I didn’t get the joke. Writers are funny because.. we write? I’m still not getting it. Are we funny because we write without anyone asking us too? You don’t have a publisher asking you to write the book before you’ve written it, but you have to work as if you do. You have to spend your own time writing like someone is counting on you, or no one ever will be. And trust me, as soon as a publisher is interested in your book, you’ll be their cool writer friend who is published.
My song ended up getting chosen by Notre Dame over 1,200 submissions, and was released on a CD that included contributions from Regis Philbin, Father Ted Hesburgh, and Cathy Richardson. If I hadn’t dedicated the time to that project, it never would have happened.
How can we make time for our projects without everyone making us feel like we’re wasting our time? Well, unfortunately you can’t control how anyone else feels (believe me, I’ve tried.. it doesn’t work). You can only control how you feel, so you have to believe in your work and believe that it is worth your time. Whether you are trying to make a living from it, or you are just in it for that burst of joy it gives you, you need to find that time and validate yourself. If you do this creative work because you need to, because you are better when you are creating, because you want to make something beautiful even if no one ever sees it, then that will be enough. If you do this work to give credibility to your existence, however, then it will not be enough and I have no advice for you (except maybe to look deeper as to why you chose this as your ticket to credibility, because maybe you just got sidetracked by everyone’s sneers.. totally understandable).
So find out what is important to you and make it urgent. Turn your phone off, let your emails pile up, and tell everyone you’re in a “meeting” (or some other socially acceptable activity). Because if you believe something is worth your time, it doesn’t have to wait.