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~ Hazel Harps On

Pressure and Pleasure

Creativity is a bringer of joy – right? Anybody who can both write successfully and perform music successfully must be happy and fulfilled – right? Um... no!

Agreed: with the life I’ve got I should be endlessly happy and fulfilled. But when do I ever do what I should do?

Recently I’ve been suffering from a nasty, gnawing anxiety that won’t leave me alone. Is it my new job that is turning out to be more stressful than I anticipated? Is it because there’s a concert at the beginning of April in which I have both harp and singing solos? Or is it because I am still waiting, waiting, waiting for news about my novel? No doubt it’s a mix of all these things and that’s human nature, but it’s got me wondering. I used to be such a laid-back person. How ever did I become so stressy?

I’ve realised it’s a direct consequence of my creative success. When I never expected anything of myself, the harp-playing, singing and writing were all delightful playtime for me. But now that I’m a ‘professional’ harpist and a published, prize-winning writer it has turned into pressure. Each success has thrilled me but also inflicted me with a desperate need for… more success. The bar gets higher and higher and every time I’m increasingly worried I’ll fail. Even if my novel gets published, becomes a bestseller and gets made into a film starring Johnny Depp, my joy will be shot through with panic. Panic that I’m a one-hit-wonder, that the next novel will disappoint everyone and be a total flop.

Crazy as this is, it’s not unusual. Reading blogs of my fellow writers I’ve seen that almost all suffer from extreme anxiety and self-doubt. Neil Gaiman’s advice (passed on to him by Stephen King) to students in his Keynote address was to enjoy making good art. ENJOY it. Apparently he was unable to do just that because he was so very anxious at every stage of the process.

I am determined not to be caught in that anxiety trap. Words and music are not cruel dictators, after all. They are friends and family. I choose to spend time with them because it is my heart’s desire. So I’m going to stop worrying about consequences and start relishing again those exquisite moments: the moments when an acceptance appears in my inbox or when an audience member says the harp moved them to tears. And, perhaps more importantly, those miracle moments when I feel a perfect line of prose or music flowing out from my fingertips.

I hereby reclaim the joy of creativity.

(And here's a lovely moment practising with Sue in the kitchen last week!)

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